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Farm families call on province to repeal law restricting homes on farm land

BC Liberal MLA Ian Paton speaks at a rally against the province's change to ALR use.
BC Liberal MLA Ian Paton speaks at a rally against the province's change to ALR use. Richard Zussman/Global News

A group of farmers are calling on the province to get rid of legislation restricting agricultural land owners from having secondary non-farm use homes for immediate family and limiting the size of residences to 12,000-square-feet or less.

More than 100 farm families and supporters rallied outside the B.C. legislature on Monday with hopes of changing the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR) rules.

“The recent act changes by the NDP create barriers for entry-level farmers, add financial burdens for current farmers, insecurity for retiring farmers and trample on the rights of existing farmers,” farmer Meghan McPherson said.

“Government’s role should be to support the rights of farmers, not stifle them.”

READ MORE: ‘Family fun is just not allowed’: B.C. farm says Halloween attractions doomed due to ALR rules

BC Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton is presenting a petition with over 26,000 signatures on it calling the legislation to be repealed.

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The province is in the midst of province-wide public consultation on the ALR.

Part of the consultation is asking farmers, ranchers and other agricultural land owners how residential options can help support their business while not have an impact on agricultural land in the ALR.

“Farmers and their families work tirelessly to contribute to our economy and make sure British Columbians have fresh, locally-produced food,” Paton said.

“Bill 52 has done nothing but tear communities apart and put farmers out of work, which is why we are calling on the NDP to repeal it. Farmers deserve to be protected by government, not persecuted by it.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Island farmers complain about changes to Agricultural Land Reserve

The Liberals also introducing legislation of their own.

MLA Laurie Throness is introducing the Trespass Amendment Act 2019.

The private members bill, which is not expected to pass, would ensure the safety of those who live and work on farms as well as their livestock and property from being endangered by illegal trespassers through increased penalties.

WATCH (aired March 24, 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

“Farms are businesses and also private property and should be protected from unlawful entry with the same rights as a brick and mortar store on a city street,” Throness said.

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“In addition, farms are food-producing facilities, so it is imperative to have a strong deterrence from unwelcome entry to prevent the spread of disease that can happen when biosecurity protocols are breached, jeopardizing thousands of animals and the industry itself.”

Paton will also introduce the Home-Based Craft Food Act.

The bill, also not expected to pass, would allow small home-based businesses to make and sell low-risk food products like jams, candy, honey or bread direct to consumers from their farmland.

“This bill is about creating value-added opportunities, fostering new micro-businesses and enabling farmers to support their families by using products from their own farms without impacting valuable farmland,” Paton said.

“With the bevy of land-use and farming restrictions laid down by the NDP, this bill would provide farmers a chance to utilize their resources and share them with all British Columbians.”