ALR Farmland. Part 1.

Our Scattered Farms and the ALR

With some data from: Vancouver Sun November 16, 2013.
Except for a small board and staff who are charged with overseeing the regulations, BC does nothing positive to preserve and expand farmland. Expenditures on Agriculture have been savagely reduced over the past decade by both senior levels of government. As a result, the ALC is an increasing anomaly. A small Prescriptive group with noble aims but no means of reaching them. Could the province’s4.6 million people ever feed themselves? Especially the 2.5 million who live in greater Vancouver?

Historically, only five per cent of lands in British Columbia are locked in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Much of BC is  mountainous. The largest blocks of arable land are concentrated around the Fraser, Kootenay, Columbia, Skeena and Peace River basins. Even though this is only 5% of all land, it is still a lot of arable land.  4,621,699 hectares.

http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/Reference_and_Resource_Documents/Docs/ALR%20Area%20by%20Region.pdf

So the simple answer is Yes. On a hectare one can not only grow enough vegetables and grains to feed a family of four, one can keep a cow or two or some sheep, goats, pigs. Some feel you can make a good living from a single acre in a market garden.  http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/How-to-Become-Self-Sufficient-on-One-Acre-of-Ground/383835

Unfortunately, for every one to get to “their” acre would not be easy. The land is in the north and the people are in the south. So let’s look first at the regions.

So let’s look first at the regions. SIX REGIONS BY A CHART (from the ALC):

Region         ALR Area (hectares)*   ALR Area (percent)  PER ACRE

North              2,210,783                         49%    …. $44.85

Interior           1,528,968                          33%     … $28.20

Island             116,207                               2%       …$1,083.00

Okanagan      224,977                               5%        …$811.42 plus $320 (wine tourism)

Kootenay        392,557                               8%       …$24.60

South Coast   148,207                                3%       …$5,140  (Van) $5,866 (FV)

Total               4,621,699                             100%

THE REGIONS

1. The North includes large blocks of agricultural land clustered around Fort St. John and Prince George. Half of B.C.’s ALR land is in the North, producing alfalfa, beef cattle and most of B.C.’s wheat, barley and canola Peace River Regional District Total ALR land 1,288,967 ha Prime agricultural land 482,000 ha Forage/pasture 339,848 ha Gross farm receipts $144.4 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $44.85.

2. The Interior extends from the arid rangelands of Nicola Valley to the rainforests of Bella Bella on the Central Coast. Crops under cultivation are mainly cereal grains such as wheat, oats and barley and feed crops such as alfalfa. Cariboo Regional District Total area in ALR 935,629 ha Total area farmed 486,079 ha Area in crops 54,123 ha Area in pasture 352,000 ha Farm gate receipts $66 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $28.20.

3. Vancouver Island. The Island has several significant fertile valleys and was, a century ago, nearly food self-sufficient. Today, much of the arable land is not farmed. While large-scale farms are increasingly profitable, agricultural activity in Cowichan Valley particularly is limited by a lack of irrigation.

3.a  Cowichan Valley Regional District Total arable land 32,830 ha. Total land in ALR 17,719 ha. Land being farmed 11,559 ha. Land under irrigation 2,465 ha Gross farm receipts $48 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $1083.60

4. Okanagan Valley Blessed with water, sunshine and warm summer temperatures, it is ideal for crops from tree fruits to vegetables and vineyards. The vast majority of ALR land in the region is rangeland for cattle. The valley also has a growing food processing industry.

North Okanagan, Central Okanagan and Okanagan Similkameen regional districts. Total area in the ALR 175,002 ha. Alfalfa, hay, field crops 27,000 ha Fruits, grapes, nuts and berries 9,402 ha Gross farm receipts $355 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ALR ACRE: $811.42

Okanagan Wine tourism receipts $140 million. GROSS WINE TOURISM RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $320.

5. Kootenay. Once home to a significant cattle industry, the region has had that business decline over the past decade. About 45 per cent of the land in the ALR is Class 5 and 6, unsuitable for crops. A short growing season and frequent drought limit the range of potential crops.

East Kootenay Regional District Total land in ALR 265,910 ha Field crops and hay 10,757 ha Not cultivated 57,940 ha Crown/grazing leases 157,008 ha Gross farm receipts $16 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $24.06

6. South Coast This includes the high-value agricultural lands in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the Pemberton Valley. More than 200 different crops are grown in the region, which is by far the most productive in B.C.

6.1 Metro Vancouver It produces 27 per cent of B.C. total gross farm receipts in 1.5 per cent of the land base. Main crops are field vegetables and berries. Total land in ALR 61,228 ha Cultivated 24,749 ha Pasture 7,325 ha Woods/wetlands 3,266 ha Farms smaller than four hectares: 49% Gross farm receipts $789 million.

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $5,154.50

6.2 Fraser Valley It produces dozens of commodities, but especially dairy, corn, greenhouse vegetables, poultry, berries and flowers.

Total land in ALR 75,000 ha. Cultivated 63,838 ha Gross farm receipts $1.1 billion

GROSS RECEIPTS PER ACRE: $5,866.66

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ALC in Distress

Pimm has begun his attack on the ALC. He will get support from other Liberals because they know where the gas is hidden and they want zero restrictions. The Liberals will be happy if we import ALL of our food and EXPORT all of our resources. They call this: Effective Management.

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From the Globe. Mark Hume. One of the good guys.
Documents suggest splitting the ALR into two zones, where different rules would apply. The ALR currently protects all agricultural land across the province, but Mr. Pimm would like to see the land in the Okanagan and Fraser valleys and Vancouver Island in one zone, with land in the Interior, Kootenays and everything north of the Okanagan in a second zone. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)” alt=”Farmworkers harvest cabbages at a farm in Richmond, B.C., November 6, 2013. Documents suggest splitting the ALR into two zones, where different rules would apply. The ALR currently protects all agricultural land across the province, but Mr. Pimm would like to see the land in the Okanagan and Fraser valleys and Vancouver Island in one zone, with land in the Interior, Kootenays and everything north of the Okanagan in a second zone. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)”
British Columbia’s “sacrosanct” Agricultural Land Commission will be effectively dismantled and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will assume new responsibilities for land use decisions if a proposal prepared for cabinet is adopted, according to confidential government documents.

Information obtained by The Globe and Mail shows that B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm is preparing to ask cabinet to endorse a plan to “modernize” the ALC, an independent Crown agency, which has overseen and protected about four million hectares of farmland for 40 years. Under the plan, the ALC – long a thorn in the side of developers who want to free up farmland – would move within the Ministry of Agriculture, apparently ending its autonomy from government.

The move reflects the rapid ascendancy of the oil and gas industry in B.C., which has become a prime focus of government.

“The Agricultural Land Commission legislative mandate is too narrow to allow decisions that align with the priority for economic development,” is the message Mr. Pimm will deliver, according to a document labelled Cabinet Decision Summary Sheet.

The document provides a point-by-point description of the steps Mr. Pimm wants to take. It calls on cabinet to allow him to “develop the necessary policy, regulatory and legislative amendments” he needs to implement dramatic change.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett – who earlier this year identified the ALC as a target when he promised the government’s core review would “look at some sacrosanct things, like … the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission” – returned a call made to Mr. Pimm’ s office.

“It’s a cabinet process and you apparently have a cabinet document. I’m not permitted … to talk about cabinet processes and the things that are being discussed,” said Mr. Bennett, who is in charge of the core review.

“Nothing that the core review process could potentially do would reduce the protection for farmland in British Columbia,” he said. “Bottom line. There is nothing that we would contemplate that would reduce or undermine the central principle of the Agricultural Land Reserve, which is the protection of farmland and the sustainability of farming.”

According to a second unmarked document, Mr. Pimm will propose splitting the ALR into two zones, where different rules would apply. The ALR currently protects all agricultural land across the province, but Mr. Pimm would like to see the land in the Okanagan and Fraser valleys and Vancouver Island in one zone, with land in the Interior, Kootenays and everything north of the Okanagan in a second zone.

The move appears designed to allow the government to ease the way for resource development in the northeast, where oil and gas development has increasingly been in conflict with farmers and ranchers.

Mr. Pimm spent 25 years working in the oil and gas industry before being elected to the provincial legislature. His appointment by Premier Christy Clark as Agriculture Minister was seen as an early sign the Liberal government didn’t want the ALC to hinder energy resource development.

Earlier this year, the ALC signed a “delegation agreement” with the BC OGC, giving the agency limited authority to authorize non-farm use of agricultural land. Under Mr. Pimm’s proposal, the BC OGC would become the primary authority on deciding whether agricultural land, outside the Okanagan and southwest region, could be withdrawn for industrial use.

Mr. Pimm is also proposing to give local governments more control, calling for “community growth applications [to be] decided by local governments.”

The ALC was established in 1974 as concerns grew in B.C. about the 6,000 hectares a year of prime agricultural land then being lost to development. Now about 500 hectares are removed annually.