The BC Food Systems Network (BCFSN) was formed in 1999 and incorporated in 2006. Its 300-plus individual members include farmers, health practitioners, educators, and consumers across the province. It links and facilitates food security activities between over 20 community-based food security organizations and Food Policy Councils.
Food Network not reassured by government’s ALR promises
A new video clip from the Farmland Protection Coalition Townhall meeting in Sidney can be seen here.
VICTORIA BC, NOVEMBER 26, 2013 – “We heard the Minister say the ALC will keep its independence, which is critical, but overall, we are not reassured,” says Linda Geggie of the BC Food Systems Network. “So the Province recognizes the importance of the Agricultural Land Commission. Now, what about the Agricultural Land Reserve?”
“The Premier and Minister Bennett have been assuring us they believe in the importance of the ALR,” she says: “but what do they mean when they say ALR?”
On November 19, Minister Bennett was quoted in the Globe and Mail1 as saying that the ALC “will remain
independent and it will continue to protect good agricultural land in the province.” The Minister is further quoted as saying: “That doesn’t mean we think the Commission is perfect or that every piece of land that was put in there, should be there.”
On November 14, Premier Christy Clark, interviewed in Kelowna on TV Global News, emphasized her government’s “plans to make sure the ALR works better.” Geggie notes “in the TV interview, the Premier referred to “parts of the northeast that have never been farmed and never will be.” How does she know they won’t be? We’ve seen a lot of changes in BC agriculture in the last 40 years, and we will see even more in the next 40, especially with the impacts of climate change.”
In that interview, Premier Clark said BC needs the ALR “to protect our valuable agricultural land,” referring specifically to the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and South Island. She reiterated the importance of the ALR working to protect “productive farmland.” Geggie draws attention to the Premier and Minister’s use of the modifiers “good,” “valuable” and “productive.” She remarks that if these words refer to soil classification, it sounds as if the two zones idea (one ALR for Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan Valley and one for the rest of BC) is still on the table.
She questions the idea of limiting the ALR to the “best” land: “ranches in the Cariboo and north are generally not on the best classes of agriculture land; does this mean ranching is not valuable to agriculture”?
Geggie notes: “If the Province has decided that only land narrowly defined as “productive” is considered worth protecting, we have three problems.”
“First,” she says, “is that the ALR as we know it was created to protect farmland not only for today but for the future. It’s about preserving options for future food production that may not be obvious today.
“Second, how do you define “good?” Soil and climatic potential were the original metrics. Government should ask the Agricultural Land Commission, which has 40 years of experience on this, to advise.
“Third, it should not be for the Province to decide this behind closed doors. This is a public issue and it should be publicly debated if any shift to the existing definition or structure of the ALR is proposed.
“The Core Review process should allow for public input. There hasn’t been any since October 16. When we made our presentation to the Finance and Government Services Committee September 26 in Victoria, its Chair, Dan Ashton, who also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Cabinet Working Group on Core Review, said to us, and he is quoted in Hansard: “I’m quite sure there are going to be lots of opportunities for input.” Where are they?”
Geggie sums up by saying, “If an independent ALC ends up presiding over only 11% of the lands currently in the ALR, we have destroyed BC’s farmland protection system. What British Columbians need is for the government to retain the ALR as one zone for the whole province and to retain the ALC as a province-wide, independent administrative body with judicial powers.”
Go to this page for further details and ways you can take action to protect BC farmland!
“We are stunned that changes of this magnitude would be proposed behind closed doors in government,” says a shocked Brent Mansfield, Co-Chair of the BC Food Systems Network, earlier today. “We agree with Mark Hume’s analysis that this proposal will dismantle the Agricultural Land Commission, and along with it, the Agricultural Land Reserve.” Read the 2013-11-07 BCFSN media release re ALR and ALC and the media backgrounder 2013-11-08 BCFSN media backgrounder re ALR and ALC.
Why is this important to us? Read 14 reasons why food security is important.
Looking for ways to take action? Here is information to download and share: BCFSN_brochure_ALR_ALC FINAL
BC Food Systems Network 2014 Gathering
We’re thrilled to let you know that the 2014 Gathering of the BC Food Systems Network will take place at the Sorrento Centre, in the traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation, on the weekend of June 27-29, 2014.
Stay tuned for more information coming soon about the theme of the Gathering, and more details about logistics and registration.
We hope that you will find time to join us for a return to the ‘ancestral homelands’ of the Gathering, where the first eleven Gatherings took place between 1999 and 2009. It will be a wonderful weekend of meeting old friends, making new ones, and above all else forging new connections to one another and to our many food systems.