Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Consultation
In a blog posted on the last week of April, we asked our readers to express their views on the province’s proposal to change the ALC Act. Despite considerable pressure from various groups and individuals to allow for a proper consultation process, Bill 24 passed on May 29th with the Liberal majority carrying the day. The speed of the bill’s passing and the lack of public input was compounded by leaked government documents from last winter proposing an end to the ALR. Former Agriculture Minister, Pat Pimm was also accused of interference in an ALC ruling late last year. Prior to his cabinet posting, the ALC criticized MLA Pimm and the mayor of Fort St. John for lobbying on behalf of a landowner who built a rodeo facility on his land; “In our respectful view, those representations were not appropriate. They could create the impression for both the Commission and the public that these officials were attempting to politically influence the Commission.”
Since passing Bill 24 in May, the provincial government has promised consultations on further changes to the ALR. Bill 24 changed the structure and governance of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), splitting the province into two zones. “Some of the detail that determines how these legislative changes will be implemented will be determined through changes to the ALR Regulation that supports the Act. This consultation is intended to solicit input on potential regulatory changes as they relate to changes in the land use activities allowable in Zone 1 and Zone 2.” The consultation process involves stakeholder engagement and an on-line survey.
“The focus of this consultation is to ask the question: what further activities should be allowable on farmland in the ALR without an application to the ALC, what parameters should be put around them, and should they vary between regions? A Reference Group convened by the Minister of Agriculture and comprised of representatives from the ALC, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) has made a number of specific suggestions in answer to this question, and these suggestions are presented in this paper for your consideration and comment.”
The background paper is available here: This survey link contains 11 questions ranging from on-farm processing, to alcohol-related businesses, to more troubling ideas like question 7. “One idea is to expand opportunities for a broader range of land-based non-agricultural businesses, such as certain oil and gas ancillary services.” The survey closes on August 22nd. Please take the time to read the background paper and either fill in the survey or send your comments and questions directly to: ALCA_feedback@gov.bc.ca B.C. agriculture minister sought to influence an ALC decision prior to reform proposal http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-agriculture-minister-seeks-to-curtail-agencys-powers/article15363816/  Consultation on Potential Changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act, page 5,http://engage.gov.bc.ca/landreserve/files/2014/07/ALRPaper.pdf  Consultation on Potential Changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act, page 1,http://engage.gov.bc.ca/landreserve/files/2014/07/ALRPaper.pdf
An Abridged Version of the Questions
- Currently the Regulation states that food storage, packing, product preparation, and food processing are permitted if at least 50% of the product is from the farm or is feed required for the farm. The parameters for allowable on-farm food storage, packing, processing and retail establishments should be revised.
- Breweries, distilleries and meaderies should be allowed on ALR land on the same or similar terms as wineries and cideries are currently allowed.
- Currently, wineries and cideries in the ALR are allowed to establish consumption areas (or ‘lounges’) to a maximum size of 125m2 inside, and 125m2 outside, which is roughly equal to a maximum of 130 people. The allowable footprint for consumption areas (or ‘lounges’) ancillary to wineries and cideries (and potentially also breweries, distilleries and meaderies) should be increased.
- Wineries and cideries (and potentially breweries, distilleries and meaderies) should be allowed to sell alcohol that was produced elsewhere in BC, not at the winery or cidery.
- Anaerobic digesters should be permitted in the ALR, if the inputs are generated from farming activities.
- On-farm cogeneration facilities should be permitted on farms where a portion of the energy created is used on-farm.
- Currently the Regulation permits a home occupation use that is accessory to a dwelling, of not more than 100 m2 or such other area as specified in a local government bylaw. One idea is to expand opportunities for a broader range of land-based non-agricultural businesses, such as certain oil and gas ancillary services. The parameters should be expanded for when non-agriculture related businesses are allowed to operate on ALR properties in Zone 2.
- The subdivision of ALR properties in Zone 2 to a minimum parcel size of a quarter section should be allowed without an application to the ALC.
- The subdivision of ALR parcels in Zone 2 that are of a defined size, and that are divided by a major highway or waterway, should be allowed without an application to the ALC.
- Greater clarity should be provided on what constitutes an agri-tourism activity that is allowable in the ALR without an application, and if so what parameters should be established.
- a) Temporary leases of portions of a property in Zone 2 of the ALR should be allowed without an application to the ALC: b) for intergenerational transfer of an active farm or ranch operation. And c) to encourage the use of otherwise unfarmed land by existing or new farmers.