B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham is moving ahead with her commitment to get rid of Agricultural Land Reserve rules that permit more secondary uses on rural farmland.
Popham presented legislation Monday that she says will return the ALR to one zone across the province, and impose penalties to stop the dumping of construction waste on farmland.
The legislation also puts a 500-square-metre limit on new houses built on ALR land, to stop wealthy buyers from purchasing farms and building “mega-mansions” on them, Popham said. That problem has been noticed mostly in Richmond and the Fraser Valley, but can be found “anywhere there’s a building boom happening,” she said.
Relaxing the secondary use rules on farmland outside the Fraser Valley, southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan was a change made by the previous B.C. Liberal government. They noted that those three prime farming zones generate 85 per cent of the province’s farm revenues, and created a second zone outside those areas with fewer restrictions on non-farm uses.
Popham said that was “undermining” the ALR, and promised before a review of land reserve legislation that it would be ended.
The ALR protects just a sliver of B.C.’s land, only five per cent, and more than 90 per cent of that land currently is in zone two,” Popham said Monday.
Peace River South B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Bernier called the move a “a one-size-fits-all decision in Victoria” that will damage the viability of farms in his region and elsewhere in the province where farming is financially difficult.
“We’ve seen some success already, where people have been able to have a small shop with a few people working, like a water-hauling business in the winter time to help subsidize the farm,” Bernier said. “Almost every farmer in my region who has a side business on their farm uses those funds so they can keep farming.”