Editor, The News:
Re: Jobs, taxes over carrots, cabbages (Sidewinder, Sept. 16).
While I have agreed with some of Sandy Macdougall’s musings over the years, his antipathy towards the Agricultural Land Reserve is puzzling.
Perhaps some indigestible morsel has fomented a delusional state that interprets opinion as fact. Maybe he just hasn’t consumed enough locally grown carrots and cabbages.
An example of this affliction is his statement: “The Pelton lands can’t compete successfully with vastly superior and more highly productive land in B.C.’s Interior or imports from south of the border.”
This is utter nonsense. The Lower Mainland has the most fertile and most productive agricultural land in the country.
It has 2.5 per cent of the agricultural land in B.C. and produces two thirds of total farm income for the province.
The Pelton lands are first class farmland. Even if they weren’t, any experienced farmer will tell you that if it grows grass, with the right inputs, you can farm it.
Rezoning agricultural land as industrial or commercial creates zero jobs.
Jobs are created when industry or business locates there.
Maple Ridge already has enough industrial land to last many years.
If more is needed, rezone non-agricultural land.
Agricultural lands create jobs when farmed and farming is a major contributor to the B.C. economy.
In 2014, B.C. agri-food production and processing sales were more than $11.4 billion.
The food and beverage processing industry is composed of more than 1,800 firms and is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the province.
This contrasts, for example, with the B.C. seafood sector, with sales of $829 million in the same year.
Depending on the season, 50-70 per cent of produce and fruit sold in B.C. is imported, mostly from California and Mexico.
Last year, over 500,000 acres of farmland were taken out of production in California due to many years of drought.
Water shortages and other climate change issues make it increasingly obvious that food security requires more local food production.
Not only does the Lower Mainland need all of its agricultural land, but we would require more than 100,000 additional hectares to become food self-sufficient.
The industrial farming model with fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide dependant mono crops results in soils that are chemically loaded, biological deserts with few or no native pollinators due to loss of biodiversity and exposure to toxins.
Pollination is critical for 65 per cent of food crops. Without it, plants will not produce a crop.
With colony collapse disorder, the bees are telling us that if we are to survive and thrive, the future of farming will see an increase in smaller poly-crop farms which retain many native plants and flowers to support native pollinators.
Many of these farms will be organic, as this is the fastest growing sector in agriculture, which corresponds to the increasing concern expressed by consumers regarding negative impacts on their health of toxins in food.
Maple Ridge, with its small acreages, is well positioned to support this kind of growth.
Several years ago, Surrey council passed a bylaw that required applicants proposing to take land out of the ALR to replace each acre removed with two acres to be added to the reserve.
The effect of this measure was to stop the destruction of agricultural land in Surrey. It ended the practice of councillors spending endless time debating proposed exclusions from the ALR.
Such foresight in local governance is lamentably rare.
I can reassure Mr. Mcdougall that I have planted a few extra carrots and cabbages for him when the time comes that Americans and Mexicans can no longer export their produce as it will be needed to feed their own people. Then he will be able to appreciate the imperative of producing real food locally.