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MLA Huntington calls for province to protect ALR

Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington -
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington
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Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington called on the province to preserve the powers of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) at the Food for the Future rally on the steps of the Victoria legislature on Monday.

The rally was organized by a coalition of organizations fighting to improve food security and preserve farmland.

A BC Liberal cabinet document leaked to the media in December discloses Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm’s plan to reform the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), something that does not sit well with Huntington.

The proposal would divide the ALR into northern and southern zones and transfer authority for the northern zone into the Oil and Gas Commission.

“A lot of us, myself included, do not feel that’s appropriate,” Huntington told the Leader. “We feel the Agricultural Land Commission should be supported with an increase in their budget rather than looking at further limiting them.”

Huntington said the leaked document flies in the face of a government promise last year to increase resources for the ALC.

The Liberal government is currently undergoing a core review called for by Premier Christy Clark and speculation has surrounded its impact to the ALR.

According to a 2010 Agricultural Land Use Inventory conducted by the BC Ministry of Agriculture, 9,403 ha of Delta is in the ALR, which represents 53 per cent of the municipality’s area. Of the 8,844 ha surveyed by the ministry, 6,691 ha, or 71 per cent, is farmed, though that total includes parcels not necessarily under active farming by the landowner.

Most of Delta’s parcels are less than four hectares (53 per cent), but the average size comes in at 11.6 ha, the largest average for a metropolitan area in the ALR.

Huntington said one desire she hears from local farmers is the ability to subdivide the land to give their children a place to live and an interest in continuing to farm the land.

“There’s some legitimacy to that but I think it requires the ALC to take a look at what policies should be around that,” she said. “Are you a long-term farming family, have you been holding it for investment purposes, have your children grown up on the farm.”

Coun. Ian Paton said in interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ALR last April that when a land base becomes too small to farm it can become fallow and pressure builds to have it developed for housing.

He said one of the benefits to the ALR in Delta has been the preservation of large acreages for crop farming.

Huntington is also concerned about the pressure on ALR lands surrounding Deltaport if Terminal 2 is approved by the federal government.

“This rally is just to keep in front of the public mind the fact that British Columbians generally agree with the Agricultural Land Reserve and have accepted it as very good public policy,” she said.

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