Friday, April 18, 2014

Farm News

Putting the Brakes on Bill 24

BCAC to meet Ag Minister Letnick Wednesday

Staff/Voice file photo


Voice file photo of Chilliwack corn taken last year.


armers who came out strongly against the BC Liberal's Bill 24, can take solace in that the British Columbia Agriculture Council will be meeting with newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Norm Letnick, on Wednesday.


Bill 24 would amend the Agricultural Land Reserve Act (ALR) to include two different zones and create ‘regional panels’ who would make decisions about land use designations in BC.

Outraged by the proposed changes, farmers around BC responded in protest with a selfie photo campaign showing their farms and families, many of whom are holding placards.

Bill 24 represents black and white approach to ALR management—without any gray areas. The sweeping changes look like something out of the Conservative Party of Canada playbook.

According to the BC New Democrat Party, a letter from soil experts to the premier Christy Clark, indicates the amendments will affect millions of hectares in BC's interior, Kootenay's more northern areas.

New Democrat small business critic, Lana Popham, has taken up the farmer's torch and is running with it.

"One of the Liberals’ primary premises for Bill 24 – that a majority of farmland in the ALR outside of Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and Okanagan, is not productive farmland – has been thoroughly discredited by experts, who have informed the premier that the opposite is true,” said Popham in a release earlier this week.

"This not only reveals the Liberals' lack of knowledge on the true overall value of the ALR, it reinforces that they never held any informed consultation on the ALR as part of the Core Review process that led this legislation. Real consultation would have resulted in better public policy that truly supports farmers, farming and our food security. Until such consultation takes place, Bill 24 needs to be shelved,” she said.

In response to the Bill, outgoing NDP leader Adrian Dix has tabled the BC Local Food Act, which has backing from various agriculture groups including B.C. Local Food Systems and Farm-to-Cafeteria Canada.

Dix has talked about shopping local in the past and says the newly-tabled Act features "a comprehensive strategy on government purchasing locally grown food; reintroducing the successful Buy BC program; mandating a legislative committee on food and agriculture to prepare, in consort with the agriculture minister, a plan to increase local food production, marketing, and processing."

On Thursday, Stan Vander Waal, Chair of the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) and owner of Rainbow Greenhouses was on CBC Radio talking about Bill 24.

Vander Waal said that progress is being made and he will be meeting with Letnick on Wednesday where they'll drill deeper into the issues.

"We plan to lay out very specifically some of those concerns, first of all, the two zones. We're concerned that two zones could ultimately lead to two-tier agriculture in British Columbia," said Vander Waal. "We feel it should be one zone, but understand there's different needs in different areas of the province. So I think it's important that we sit down and have those discussions."

Another issue the BCAC has with the Act revolves around land use.


"One of our other concerns is what is the business? Is the business actually primarily a farm, or is it a non-agricultural business?" he said.

Vander Waal is optimistic and says the BCAC can see that Letnick's wants to work with them.

"We feel that we've gotten a very comfortable feeling from Norm. Norm has been a great Agriculture minister in the past. We really believe that Norm is committed to coming up with the right solution for agriculture and that's why we're really hopeful that our Wednesday meetings we'll see a solid course of action."

But for now, the selfies continue. Vander Waal thinks they're great saying it demonstrates the "passion behind agriculture."


Related Links
The BC Food Systems Network farmer selfie photos
The BC NDP have set up a "Save the ALR" petition page at: 
The BC Agricultural Council



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