Revitalization of the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission:
Government is committed to helping B.C. farmers farm so that it can support good jobs for people and help producers continue to grow the food that British Columbians count on.
- In January 2018, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture tasked an independent committee, the Minister’s Advisory Committee, to lead a public engagement process and provide recommendations to the provincial government to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
- The committee held engagement sessions with local governments and agricultural stakeholders in nine communities throughout the province and met with the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the ALC.
- More than 2,300 British Columbians responded to the committee’s online discussion paper and survey, and the committee also received more than 270 written submissions.
- Bill 52, passed into law in November 2018, implemented changes to keep farmland affordable for farmers and crack down on the illegal dumping of construction waste and unauthorized fill on farmland.
- Bill 15, passed into law in May 2019, focuses on giving the ALC the tools it needs to support farmers and ranchers in every part of B.C. It will come into force once regulations are published.
Support for Agri-Tourism in the ALR:
- The previous government established rules for serving food in the ALR. Generally, restaurants have always required a decision from the ALC to operate on the ALR.
- The only change made by the current government was to level the playing field so that all alcohol producers in the ALR had the same opportunities as those that were previously provided only to wineries, including the ability to operate a food and beverage service lounge. Government is considering whether further changes are needed to the old rules to better support producers, while continuing to protect the ALR.
- The current rules on events in the ALR were introduced by the previous government in 2016. They have been in place for three years and have not changed.
- Landowners wishing to hold events that exceed the criteria in the 2016 regulation can apply to the ALC, which will make an independent decision on their applications.
- Similarly, the regulations regarding serving food on the ALR were established by the previous government over a decade ago and have not changed.
- Farm businesses that produce alcohol are able to serve food, though non-alcohol producers are not able to serve food at this time.
- Supporting farmers to hold events to celebrate and sell farm products on their properties is a key part of helping farmers farm.
Additional dwellings on the ALR:
- Bill 52, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, protects farmland in B.C. to support farmers.
- Right now, people who live in the ALR and want to build additional homes on farmland to support their farming operations can do so with permission from their local government and the ALC.
- Farmers have continued to be able to apply to the ALC for a manufactured home to support their farming activities while government was working on the legislative framework to revitalize the ALR.
- As it continued to work on regulations to support Bill 52, the B.C. government listened to local governments and people living in the ALR, including those who purchased land in the ALR for residential use, not to farm.
- As a result from those conversations, a July 4th regulatory change extended the grandfathering period for people who are not farming on the ALR to have manufactured homes on their property for immediate family members.
- The change permits landowners in the ALR to include a manufactured home for immediate family members on their land, providing the home meets specific criteria, and the landowners obtain all the required permits and authorizations before Feb. 22, 2020.
- Local governments were consulted to ensure enough time was made available for people to obtain the necessary permits for manufactured homes.
Cannabis production in the ALR:
- Local and First Nations governments can prohibit cannabis production in the ALR within their communities, unless it is grown in ways that preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land.
- A regulatory change provided authority to local and Indigenous governments to prohibit cement-based, industrial-style, cannabis-production bunkers on ALR land in their communities, while clarifying that cannabis production in the ALR cannot be prohibited if it is grown lawfully:
- in an open field;
- in a structure that has a soil base;
- in a structure that was either fully constructed or under construction, with required permits in place, prior to July 13, 2018; or
- in an existing licensed operation.
Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR):
- The ALR includes 46,159 square kilometres of B.C., which are preserved for agricultural use. This area is equivalent to only 5% of B.C.’s total land base.
- Prior to the establishment of the ALR on April 16 1973, thousands of hectares of farmland were being lost to development every year.
- Land in the ALR falls into one of seven soil classes, ranging from Class 1 (wide range of crops can be grown without difficulty) to Class 7 (unsuitable for soil-based agriculture or sustained grazing, but suitable for barns, greenhouses and processing facilities).
- 10% of the land in the ALR produces 85% of B.C.'s farm receipts.
- 3% of land in the ALR in the South Coast region produces 65% of the province's farm receipts.
Agricultural Land Commission (ALC):
- The ALC is an independent, administrative tribunal. The ALC makes land-use decisions within the ALR based on provincial legislation, the Agricultural Land Commission Act and the associated regulation.
- The ALC bases its decisions on its mandate of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching in British Columbia.
- The ALC looks at many factors when carrying out its mandate. Each application has its own set of circumstances and is considered on its own merits.