B.C.’s system of preserving farmland up for review

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ALR up for review – Jan 5, 2018

Support it or hate it, there’s no doubt the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has had an impact on the Okanagan.

Thousands of hectares of property that could have been developed remain as farmland as a result of the reserve, but the system has its critics.

Now, the NDP government has announced a review of the land protection system it created to see how it can be revitalized.

This week, the province announced an independent committee will be holding public consultations and making recommendations on how to “revitalize” the ALR and its governing body, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which aim to preserve B.C. farmland.

The review follows controversial changes to the ALC in 2014.

“It is a good time for a review,” said farmer Dennis Lapierre.

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“I think a review to see what has transpired and what’s worked and what hasn’t is a good idea.”

However, the committee is likely to get an earful from those who feel the ALC could do a better job.

“They don’t enforce the rules they have. There are a lot of things happening on agriculture land that should not happen,” said Rene Talbot, the regional district area director for Falkland.

Talbot feels the ALC doesn’t listen to local government to the degree that it should.

“An application comes to our board, we make a recommendation and most times, if we are in favour, they turn it down, if we don’t support it, they approve it. It almost makes you feel like you are wasting your time,” said Talbot.

However, Lapierre has had the opposite experience as the chair of an agricultural advisory committee.

“The commission is quite responsive to local governments’ interests and views,” he said.

The ALC says it has recently ramped up enforcement with more staff.

As for the criticism that the ALC doesn’t work closely enough with local governments, an organization spokesperson said that local governments have been “inconsistently supportive of protecting farmland,” and the ALC aims to consistently support protecting farmland in the long-term.

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If the review does prompt new legislation, that likely won’t happen until late this year or early next year.