Consultation sheds light on farmland changes

Relaxed farm leasing rules in rural zones, allowing breweries and distilleries are being considered in new regulations

The B.C. government allows wine and cider making on farmland

VICTORIA – Since commercial production of wine or cider is allowed on farmland, why not a brewery, distillery or meadery?

Should energy co-generation be allowed on farms, using manure or other biodegradable waste to produce methane gas and carbon dioxide?

These are some of the questions included in the B.C. government’s consultation on changes to Agricultural Land Reserve regulations, released this week. Others deal with controversial proposals to allow specified non-farm uses, secondary residences and subdivisions without permission from the Agricultural Land Commission.

Developed after consultation with the B.C. Agriculture Council, local governments and the commission, the 11 questions offer more detail on changes the government is considering under legislation passed despite protests this spring.

The legislation divided the ALR into two zones, to permit more flexibility in the Interior, Kootenay and North regions (Zone 2) where both agriculture revenue and development pressure are lower.

One question asks whether farmland in all of Zone 2 should be able to be subdivided down to a minimum of a quarter section (65 hectares) without application to the ALC, as is now allowed in the Peace River and Northern Rockies Regional Districts in northeast B.C.

Another proposal is to allow subdivision without ALC approval where farmland is divided by a major waterway or highway, subject to a minimum size.

The province is also considering relaxing lease rules, which currently permit leasing of an entire farm property without ALC approval. The consultation asks if a portion of property should be allowed for lease to permit “intergenerational transfer,” where farmers retire on a portion of their land so their children can continue to farm the rest.

Another proposal for partial lease without ALC approval would allow unfarmed land to be brought into production. The partial leases would not require a formal subdivision.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has emphasized that changes to the ALR are designed to support farming, not erode the protected agricultural land base.

Public input is being accepted until Aug. 22. The questions and a background paper are available here, where submissions can be made.

Comments can also be made by email to ALCA_feedback@gov.bc.ca or by Canada Post to ALR Regulation Consultation, P.O. Box 9120, Stn. Provincial Government, Victoria B.C. V8W 9B4.

 

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