Monday, March 7, 2011

Professional Agrologists Voice Concern Over Cuts to BC Agricultural Land Commission

Professional Agrologists Voice Concern Over Cuts to BC Agricultural Land Commission
February 21, 2011
To: Premier Gordon Campbell
To: Finance Minister Colin Hansen
CC: MLA Ben Stewart (Minister of Agriculture), MLA Lana Popham (NDP Agriculture Critic)
CC: Richard Bullock (Chair, Agricultural Land Commission), Brian Underhill (Executive Director, Agricultural Land Commission)
CC: Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Tyee, Times Colonist, various local media

We are writing to express our disappointment in the BC Government’s recent ‘status quo’ budget (Feb 15, 2011), in which the Agricultural Land Commission’s budget was cut by another 5% (it’s now been cut by 18% since 2008). The ALC’s mandate is to protect agricultural land and to promote farming. We believe that at a time when cost, safety, and access to food are in the headlines at home and around the world, our agricultural community deserves more support, not less.
It is widely recognized that B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve is one the strongest land use planning policies in North America. It is governed and managed by the Land Commission, who have been hit with a slimmed down budget year after year, while simultaneously dealing with an ever-increasing load of applications to remove and subdivide farmland, a reduction in staff (there are no longer any soil scientists at the ALC), and an ever-increasing need for ALR enforcement. Just last September, BC’s Auditor General released a report indicating that the ALC was facing challenges in meeting its own mandate, largely due to a lack of resources to perform basic tasks such as keeping maps up-to-date and enforcing illegal activities on ALR land1.   
The BC Government is in the embarrassing position of spending the least amount per sector GDP on agriculture in Canada. That’s right – the province boasting of Okanagan orchards and wines, Fraser Valley berries, and Peace River beef, offers less support to agriculture than Newfoundland2.
In our work with BC farmers we see firsthand people with a passion to produce high quality food for British Columbians while at the same time encountering a real struggle to make ends meet. It’s time we offer BC producers our true support - not only through a committed customer base, but by ensuring an institutional and regulatory system that champions agriculture at all levels of government.
 After all, few members of society are more important than the ones committed to producing our food.
Ione Smith, P.Ag.
Peter Doig, P.Ag.
Art Bomke, P.Ag.
Barbara Johnstone Grimmer, P.Ag.
Jean Schwartz, P.Ag.
Wendy Holm, P.Ag.
Andrea Lawseth, P.Ag.
Lesley Dampier, P.Ag.
Arzeena Hamir, P.Ag.
Derek Masselink, P.Ag.
Dave Sands, P.Ag.
Gary Runka, P.Ag.

  1. Audit of the Agricultural Land Commission. Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia. Report 5. September 5, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7726-6335-1
  1. An Overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2007. ISBN 978-0-662-47429-6

Media Contact:
Ione Smith, P.Ag.

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