The Future of the ALR

Thu, Nov. 24, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Vernon
Okanagan Regional Library - meeting room
A Conversation with Richard Bullock
An evening of discussion about the importance of protecting the ALR

Richard Bullock is a Kelowna Agriculturalist who has been active in industry, and has served as the president of the BC Fruit Growers Association, BC Tree Fruits Ltd., and Sunripe Products Ltd., as well as a director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

He is a former Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission.

SENS and the Library co-sponsored a full-house evening of dialogue with Richard Bullock, November 24, with interesting questions and comments from attendees. Here’s Richard on CBC radio: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/live/radio1/kelowna and here are some of the comments from the evening.

The Agricultural land Commission (ALC) came about, pre 1972, because the Regional Districts and Municipalities had lost control - housing took land instead of it staying for food farming and orcharding. It is still the best plan for preserving farm food land but it needs support from the RDs and municipalities. Less than 5 % of land release requests and other change requests come from farmers so work and time of the ALC is wasted by non-farmers out to suit personal choices. The NDP came into power and supported the ALR and ALC with a contract for fruit farmers to freeze land so it could not be sold for housing but only kept for farming. In exchange, farmers were protected with insurance against bad year damage etc. Later governments (Socred -Liberals) started changing how the ALC and ALR operated. Now ALR land is used for speculative reasons (hold to make money) so values rose and land is no longer affordable for young farmers. We are up against powerful money people. Speculator owners hold onto agricultural land until they can sell, not for farm land, but for huge, and personal profit. RD’s and Municipalities are not standing up and protecting agriculture – they’re not treating agriculture the same as they do other businesses, yet BC agriculture is the second largest GDP economic generator in BC.

Solutions: Eliminate ALL individual applications to the ALC. Any application to remove land should only be brought up at a public meeting The community should make the decision so that it benefits the whole community, not just one landowner. Victoria should not be making the decisions about local land. Local government should, with the public’s input make the final decision. “HANDS OFF FARMLAND”. If locals say this, then the government will back off. It should be Kristi Clark saying it, though, and then the fight by the ALC to protect farmland and keep it sacrosanct would be ‘over’. The NDP critic needs to push to have government say “no” to all individual applications. Local government (not federal or provincial) affects us most but we give them the least attention.

The price of food is an issue – how much are we willing to pay for food? If you buy it as farmland, then you sell it as farmland only. There are small successful retailers such as Davison’s and more are appearing. We used to have 13 large packing houses in the valley (1950’s) but now there’s only Sunripe and everyone ships to them. RD’s and Municipalities have allowed this loss. NOCA was a $17 million industry but the Foremost Co. would not work with them so no milk is not processed locally and many jobs were lost. Free trade agriculture is killing our sovereignty. All we do is shop and support foreign food production. The push is still to produce food for export, not use it locally.

In Salmon Arm 1100 farm land owners have received letters about a land lease rent workshop to be held. It most likely would discuss such things as 25 year land tenure leases to young farmers so that, even if the land sold, it would stay as protected farm land and the farmer could continue to produce food. Compartmentalizing may have meant farmers are not showing viability. Mixed use of land may help change how people see presence of farming. Big money corporations see farmland as a safe investment - too narrow a view of agriculture.

In Kelowna farmers were allowed to diversify – rent to a few trailer owners short term for extra money, but it has got out of control and now the trailer parks can’t be removed. They are trailer park renters, NOT farmers now. Diversification should only be allowed if farming is the dominant industry (and thus successful!). There is a perception that one has to diversify to make a go of agriculture but these are ”shit farmers” – they’re no good at it and have made a poor decision to buy to farm so have tried to diversify to make ends meet. The change of regulations at the ALC is aimed at non-farmers.

“ Right to Farm” legislation has meant that a mega cow farm on 400 acres can pollute aquifers with impunity and get government support to keep doing it.. Industrial farming needs control, though. (editorial aside: if it were 1000 humans, not cows, a tertiary treatment facility would be mandatory, right?). Chilliwack is sitting on the best aquifer water in the world but locals are getting concerned about the destruction of the high quality water due to local farmers’ “right to farm”…

Richard asked everyone to “tell Your Story” re; protecting food land, shopping locally etc. YOUTH have to make the difference..

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