Producers are part of the nine-member group
By Diego Flammini
British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture has assembled a committee to help rejuvenate some of the province’s protected agricultural land.
Lana Popham’s nine-member group that will provide advice, policy guidance and recommendations on how revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The ALR is provincially owned land where agriculture is seen as the land’s main use. The ALC is an independent tribunal charged with administering the Agricultural Land Commission Act.
The ultimate goal is to encourage farmers to use the province’s 4.6 million hectares of protected farmland.
“The ALR and ALC are incredibly important to the health and economic well-being of our province’s future…,” Popham said in a release Thursday.
The group includes former members of the ALC, a Canada Research chair in food security and, of course, farmers.
Chris Kloot, a poultry producer and Chilliwack city councillor, Irmi Critcher, a grain farmer and past president of the BC Grain Producers’ Association, and Arzeena Hamir, a farmer, agronomist and president of the Mid Island Farmers Institute, will sit on the committee.
It’s too early to know what the committee’s mandate will be but helping the next generation of producers access land will be part of it, Hamir said.
When looking at statistics from the 2016 Census of Agriculture, “most of our farmers are over 55 years old and I think we have the lowest percentage of farmers under 35 in Canada,” she told Farms.com. “If (farmers are) aging and there’s nobody to take those spots, how is anyone supposed to grow food?”
The group will come up with recommendations for the government.
The group will host regional meetings and allow the public to give feedback online.
In 2014, the provincial Liberal government split the ALR into two zones. They opened the ALR zone including the North, Interior and Kootenay regions to non-farm activity.
Splitting the ALR into smaller parcels can increase the cost of farmland, Minister Popham told the Times Colonist in August.
Hamir echoed Popham’s feelings on the province’s farmland.
“Agricultural land in the lower mainland is so expensive and not feasible for anyone who wants to get into farming or doesn’t have a connection to farming,” she said.
Top photo: Arzeena Hamir