News Views: ALR review risky business

Editorial on Minister Bill Bennett's promise to take a close look at agricultural land reserve boundaries in B.C.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, to his credit, has been upfront saying he’ll take a close look at the boundaries of the Agricultural Land Reserve because, he says, in some areas they hamper economic growth, such as the ability to build a new suburb.

The look will form part of the core review of government services and Bennett tries to assure anyone listening in the doldrums of summer that he has no intent of removing productive farmland from the reserve.

It’s a dangerous game however, and Bennett admits they haven’t yet found a way to remove “worthless” farmland from the reserve, while protecting fertile land.

It’s dangerous because while applicants in the Interior argue dry conditions make farming fruitless, those on the coast argue too much water makes it impossible to farm. The latter is a tried- and-true pitch from applicants hoping to cash in by developing cheap, verdant land that could produce bumper crops, with only a modicum of care and knowledge.

While our neighbours to the south struggle with water shortages and dessertification, the B.C. government should focus more on the huge economic contributor that agriculture can, or will be.

One of Bennett’s proposals is to allow home-site severance from the ALR.

That would allow a retiring farmer to remain in his or her family home while a new generation took over the production. That’s a prudent and practical step that’s a win-win for all.

Any redrawing of boundaries however, if at all, can only follow a thorough, objective, science-based scrutiny of the land in question, separate and apart from the core review.

– The  News


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