Ian Paton, MLA for Delta South and co-critic for agriculture, speaks to a group of concerned farmers at Rusted Rake Farm in Nanoose Bay on June 17. - Karly Blats photo

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

Farmers around B.C. are concerned about recent changes to provincial legislation that could negatively impact the future of their farms.

Close to 60 farmers and politicians gathered at Rusted Rake Farm on Vancouver Island near Parksville on June 17 to discuss concerns about limits to secondary dwellings and restrictions to Agricultural Land Commission, among other recent changes.

Raquel Kolof, of the Sunshine Coast Farmers’ Institute, took two ferries from Gibsons to be at the meeting. Kolof is a pig farmer and said she’s tired of being told she’s “less of a farmer” because she wants a second dwelling on her farm.

“I am no less of a farmer because I need a second dwelling in order to be able to afford to farm. My feed bill is astronomical. I need that stable rental income in order to be able to afford to farm. ” Kolof said. “If you want to say farmland is for farming, great, then follow up with that. No more industrial cannabis production on farmland, no more big winery tasting rooms. Treat us all the same, it’s discrimination.”

“I’m frustrated for the farmers to have the additional red tape, to not have the ability to have those individual rights and choice,” said Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum. “[The government] insisting farmers have to make an application to the ALC to prove they’re not a speculator so they can build a house for their family, adding that additional cost, adding that additional red tape is not fair to farmers.”

Kim Burden, executive director with the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce, said not allowing additional housing on farmland will only add to the region’s housing shortage.

“We can’t find places for our workers to live now, our employers can’t find employees because they can’t live here, so taking further housing away is having a ripple effect on the whole economy,” Burden said.

Ian Paton, MLA for Delta South and co-critic for agriculture, added that next generation farmers deserve to be able to live on their family farms and the new legislation will force farm workers to have to commute.

“On my farm alone, I live in my grandpa’s house which is pretty tiny, about 1,500 square feet and my mom, who is 92, lives in the big old farm house,” Paton said. “If one of our houses burns down… and this has been in my family since 1942, they’re going to say, ‘sorry you can’t rebuild that house because you’re only allowed one house on that farm.’ This is crazy.”

Clarke Gourlay, Regional District of Nanaimo director for Area G (French Creek, Dashwood, Englishman River) and co-founder and general manager of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Morningstar Farm, said the greatest issue for farming isn’t housing, it’s cost of land.

“I think what we’re missing is the Agricultural Land Reserve is not the residential land reserve, it is not a reserve for housing, for cheap housing, for family group housing, it’s a reserve for farming, for agriculture,” Gourlay said. “My family and I run a fairly effective, commercially viable farm in French Creek. We can’t afford to expand, not because we’ve run out of houses, but because we can’t afford the land.”

Gourlay added that farmland is not the place to address housing shortages, it’s a place to farm.

The event was hosted by the District A Farmers’ Institute, an organization that includes farmers from Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Sunshine Coast and Powell River.

“The purpose of this meeting is to give our regional input to growing concerns throughout the province regarding various issues stemming from the recent passing of Bills 52 and 15 and some other longstanding situations related to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and Agricultural Land Commission (ALC),” said District A Farmers’ Institute president Janet Thony.

RELATED: Concerned farmers speak up about legislative changes to ALR land use

The provincial government introduced Bill 52 on Nov. 5, 2018 and the changes officially took effect on Feb. 22, 2019. According to the government, the legislation changes will encourage farming on ALR land and end the proliferation of large mansions and lifestyle estates in the ALR, which inflate land prices and place agricultural land out of the reach of current and new farmers and ranchers.

An amendment also limits the number of homes on agricultural land to one, unless the ALC grants an exemption.

The issue of farmers facing restrictions to building second dwellings on their farms was a recurring issue brought up among individuals at the June 17 meeting.

Another significant concern brought up was that in Bill 15 —The Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act 2019 —farmers appear to be excluded from the definition as independent “persons” qualified to apply for exclusion. The bill states private property owners no longer have the right to petition the ALC for removal of land. Only a local government or First Nations government will be able to apply for changes.

According to the B.C. government, the new legislation has been introduced to strengthen the independence of the ALC so it can better fulfill its mandate of preserving the ALR.

District A Farmer’s Institute, the BC Chamber of Commerce and the Union of BC Municipalities have all sent formal letters to the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Forests, Lands Natural Resources and Rural Development with their concerns about the new legislation.

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Just Posted

Long-awaited Crofton road improvements finally happening

Paved shoulders on both sides will be a welcome addition

Ladysmith Little Theatre now showing The Dining Room

Opening night is Thursday, September 19 and the final performance is Sunday, October 6

New ratepayers association forming in Area H

Organization will advocate for North Oyster, Yellowpoint and Diamond District residents

Mrs. Warren’s Profession a delightful comedic romp

Chemainus Theatre Festival did not disappoint with their production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession

Campground on the chopping block as ALC deadline looms

Owners fighting to continue facility’s operation, with a huge outpouring of support

‘It’s almost surreal’: B.C. fire chief, sidekick Sammy recap rescue mission in Bahamas

Chief Larry Watkinson and Sam the disaster dog spent 8 days assisting a search and rescue team

Break out the tiki torches: Open fires allowed again in B.C.’s coastal region

All open fires allowed effective at noon on Sept. 18

Vaping-related illness confirmed in Ontario believed to be first in Canada

Middlesex-London Health Unit had no further details about the case — believed to be the first confirmed in Canada

Canadian stars Virtue, Moir say in video they’re ‘stepping away’ from ice dancing

The pair thank fans for their support in an emotional message

Kamloops high school evacuated after receiving threat

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Woman held at gunpoint during carjacking in UBC parkade

University RCMP say the vehicle is still missing, and two suspects are at large

VIDEO: Angry B.C. cyclist starts shaming dangerous drivers online

‘You motorists deserve all your costs and misery’

‘Time to take action:’ Children advocates call for national youth suicide strategy

Council wants Ottawa to make reporting of suicides and attempted suicides mandatory for data collection

Canadian inflation decelerates to 1.9% as gas prices weaken

August was the sixth straight month that price growth was 1.9 per cent or higher

Most Read