VICTORIA - Farmers and ranchers on Agricultural Reserve Land will have more tools to protect their way of life as a result of proposed legislation, increased funding and other measures to improve the operations of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), Minister of Agriculture Don McRae and ALC chair Richard Bullock said.
"By improving the structure and sustainability of the ALC, we're improving the lives of 20,000 farming families in British Columbia and the $9.6-billion agri-food sector our province supports," said McRae. "The changes and support the Province is providing the ALC is a commitment to ensure the ALC will be a proactive organization dedicated to preserving farms, and expanding opportunities for producers."
"These initiatives will enhance the commission's ability to preserve B.C.'s agricultural land and encourage farming," said Bullock.
"A stronger ALC means stronger operations for current and future B.C. farmers and ranchers, and a stronger agricultural industry for the tens of thousands of British Columbians working in it," said Reg Ens, executive director of the British Columbia Agriculture Council. "We are encouraged to see the B.C. government taking steps that should help strengthen farming, and moving forward we anticipate working with the Province to implement the changes."
Improvements to the ALC will be made in several areas:
- Preserving farmland by placing a five-year moratorium on repeat applications for items such as excluding land from the ALR.
- Sustainable operations through additional funding and provisions for increased revenue generation by the ALC.
- Increased enforcement capacity through shared resources.
- Strategic governance provisions give the chair additional oversight over regional panels and more time to focus on commission matters by hiring a CEO to look after administrative issues.
- Upgraded online application tracking system to provide enhanced web services to clients.
- Encouraging farming by working more proactively with local governments rather than simply reacting to applications.
- A new minister's bylaw standard regarding residential uses in the ALR.
Today's comprehensive reform package responds to recommendations contained in two independent reviews of the ALC. One was prepared by the auditor general of British Columbia and the other by commission's chair.
The chair's report is available at: http://www.gov.bc.ca/agri/alcreview.html
The proposed legislation is posted as part of Bill 19 at: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/index.htm
A backgrounder follows.
Public Affairs Officer
Ministry of Agriculture
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect
Nov. 14, 2011 Ministry of Agriculture
Province to strengthen Agricultural Land Commission
Details on the improvements to the ALC include:
* Preserving Farmland: Legislation introduced today supports the ALC focusing its resources on its core functions. The legislation would place a five-year moratorium on repeat applications to the ALC.
* Sustainable Operations: An additional $1.6 million provides the ALC with resources to transition to a more self-supporting operating model by 2013. The proposed legislation would also allow the ALC to charge service fees to augment provincial funding. The fee structure will be set by provincial regulation following consultation with producers, local governments and other stakeholders.
* Increased Enforcement: The Province has already increased the number of provincial government officials authorized to investigate and respond to ALR violations to approximately 30 through coordinated multi-ministry enforcement. The proposed legislation would further expand enforcement by allowing qualified officials from other government agencies and levels of government to conduct enforcement activities.
* Strategic Governance: The recruitment of a chief executive officer (CEO) for the ALC is underway. The CEO will lead the ALC's evolution into a sustainably structured organization. The proposed legislation would also enable the chair of the ALC to have greater oversight of regional panels to ensure fairness, transparency and consistency in the decision-making process.
* Upgraded Information Services: Government ministries and agencies are already working to improve the ALC's business processes and information management capacity through its online application tracking system. Upon completion, this effort will provide enhanced web services to clients through full integration with the Province's online mapping database and interactive tools.
* Encouraging Farming: These changes will free up resources to allow the Province and the ALC to be more proactive in their work with local governments to encourage agriculture in their land use plans, bylaws and policies, and to promote agriculture, farm diversification and value-added processing in their communities.
* A new minister's bylaw standard: The bylaw standard provides local governments with a ready-to-use model that restricts building large residential homes in the centre of ALR lots and ensures the majority of the land is preserved for agricultural use. The resulting standard follows extensive consultation with local governments, agriculture producers, stakeholders and the general public. The standard is posted at:
Public Affairs Officer
Ministry of Agriculture