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Vancouver Island farmers complain about changes to Agricultural Land Reserve

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WATCH: Vancouver Island farmers are banding together to take on the Agricultural Land Commission over changes they say are eroding their rights. Kylie Stanton reports.

Farmers on Vancouver Island are raising concerns about recent changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

At a public meeting hosted by the District A Farmers’ Institute at the Rusted Rake Farm in Nanoose Bay, farmers voiced concerns about the impact the changes are having on ALR landholders.

“What’s been happening lately we don’t think is effectively preserving farmland,” District A Farmers’ Institute president Janet Thony said on Monday.

WATCH (March 29, 2019): Metro Vancouver farmers and opposition BC Liberals rally against ALR laws

Click to play video 'Metro Vancouver farmers and opposition BC Liberals rally against ALR laws' Metro Vancouver farmers and opposition BC Liberals rally against ALR laws
Metro Vancouver farmers and opposition BC Liberals rally against ALR laws

The catalyst for the meeting is the recent passing of bills 15 and 52, which limit what farmers can do on their land, including what can be sold and what kind of structures can be built.

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The owners of the Rusted Rake say they are feeling this first-hand. They’ve been told the restaurant on the land doesn’t conform with ALR rules and, in order to stay open, they’re being forced to expand — by adding a brewery.

“They’re basically saying: ‘Alcohol is OK on your farm and cannabis is OK in British Columbia now, but dear God — we don’t want you selling food off your farm that may be grown on your farm,'” Delta South MLA Ian Paton said. “It’s just really poor legislation.”

Michelle Stilwell, Liberal MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, added: “It’s a busy, busy restaurant, and the restrictions are impacting their ability to make a living.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Island farm forced to add on brewery to keep restaurant open on ALR land

Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham accused the opposition of “playing fast and loose with the truth.”

“It was the old government who established the rules around events and serving food; there hasn’t been any change since,” she said.

Farmers say that’s not their reality.

WATCH (Nov. 5, 2018): B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR

Click to play video 'B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR' B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR
B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR

“It’s just more rules on top of more rules,” Regional District of Nanaimo Area F director Leanne Salter said. “I think they need to take a step back and I think they need to listen to farmers.”

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Until changes are made, farmers have no choice but to play by the rules.

Thony said that’s leaving many potential opportunities hanging in the balance.

“We’ve got to be able to value-add what we do. And someone who is willing to take the risk should have the right.”