Agriculture Minister Lana Popham appointed a nine-member panel to consult and make recommendations on “revitalization” of the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack city councillor named to provincial ALR ‘revitalization’ committee

Ag minister appoints nine-member group to make recommendations on possible changes by end of 2018

A Chilliwack city councillor and a University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) professor are among nine members of a new committee looking to make recommendations to the provincial government on how to “revitalize” the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham announced the formation of the committee Jan. 4 that will host regional meetings, an online consultation process, and eventually develop recommendations for government to consider.

Chilliwack Coun. Chris Kloot, who is a Rosedale poultry farmer and a local realtor, was named to the committee. As was UFV geology professor Lenore Newman who is also Canada Research chair in food security and environment at UFV.

“I am proud and grateful to have attracted British Columbians with the knowledge, expertise, passion and experience that the committee members possess for agriculture,” Popham said in a press release.

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“The ALR and the [Agricultural Land commission] are incredibly important to the health and economic well-being of our province’s future, and making it easier and more efficient for the commission to fulfill its mandate of protecting farmland and encouraging farming is a commitment the B.C. government is delivering on.”

Long a critic of the former BC Liberal policy on farmland, Popham has, in the past, promised to expand the ALR and conduct a boundary review to ascertain if the current zones under protection should be changed.

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While Popham has been critical of past government policy such as breaking the ALR into two zones, one of which opened up the protected areas to other economic activity, in October the new minister said the province would consider relaxing regulations to allow craft breweries operate on the ALR.

What exactly “revitalization” means in Thursday’s announcement is unclear, but in the coming months the committee will develop recommendations for the government.

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The Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee is tasked with providing “strategic advice, policy guidance, and recommendations on how to help revitalize the ALR and ALC to ensure the provincial goals of preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching in British Columbia continue to be a priority.”

The committee’s is to be chaired by Jennifer Dyson who has long been involved in big picture agriculture policy in B.C., sat on the ALC from 2008 to 2017, and runs a water buffalo dairy in the Alberni Valley.

Other board members along with Dyson, Kloot and Newman include: former Independent MLA for Delta South Vicki Huntington; Chief of the Okanagan Indian Band Byron Louis; retired ALC policy analyst Shaundehl Runka; Peace Region grain and oilseed farmer Irmi Critcher; Comox Valley farmer and agronomist Arzeena Hamir; and retired deputy CEO of the ALC, Brian Underhill.

Beginning in early 2018, the committee will: Share a consultation paper to seek opinions and feedback on revitalizing the ALR and ALC; host regional meetings to hear opinions and feedback directly from the local farming and ranching communities in Abbotsford, Cranbrook, Fort St. John, Kelowna, Kamloops, Nanaimo and Prince George; and open an online consultation process to seek public opinion.

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