Changes to Agricultural Land Commission receive mixed reviews from stakeholders

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Those changes include a moratorium on repeat applications to the ALC, increased funding and increased enforcement ability through shared resources, additional oversight of the chair over regional panels and the hiring of a CEO to handle administrative issues, upgraded information systems, and a new standard for the size of housing in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The changes are being greeted positively by the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, which had called for reforms to the Agricultural Land Reserve as part of a broader set of recommendations included in a Ranching Task Force Report released last year.
"The new legislation and related initiatives should rectify some of the concerns of the agriculture community, while securing land for food production," said Kevin Boon, General Manager of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, in a statement. "This will be extremely important to B.C.'s economy as we move towards an era where food will become one of the most sought-after resources any country can provide."
The reforms were met with a bit more scepticism from a representative of a Dawson Creek-based group that was also pushing for reform of the ALR. Paul Gevatkoff, who is president of the Citizens for Agricultural Land Reform Society, said most of the changes seem cosmetic and don’t really apply to the issues entrepreneurs and farmers are faced with in the Peace region – specifically, having more flexibility and more timely decisions on applications for non-farm uses in the ALR.
“We’ve got farmers in our area who need to work outside of the farm to supplement their incomes, and they would like to be involved in servicing the oil and gas industry, but they just don’t have that option right now – the non-farm use of their farmland is illegal, so what the government is doing is basically is putting them in a no-win situation,” said Gevatkoff. “It’s ludicrous, and it is something that has to be fixed.”
He added farmers also want more flexibility when it comes to home site severances to help facilitate the transition of family farms to the next generation.
He said he is encouraged, however, by the commitment made by the ALC’s commissioner, Richard Bullock, to use some of the commission’s new, one-time funding to review the boundaries of the ALR, and specifically in the Peace region.
“The boundaries that were designated back in 1974 have never been adjusted, and I think it was kind of a quick solution at that time, because there is a lot of land included in the ALR that absolutely shouldn’t be,” said Gevatkoff. “I think an increased [ALC] budget and a commitment to have a look at the boundaries is huge for the Northeast.”
He said he is hoping to meet with Peace Region MLAs Blair Lekstrom and Pat Pimm in the near future to get further clarification around the changes to the ALC and to continue to push for more reforms.  

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