Friday, April 18, 2014
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.
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
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
"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."
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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