SURREY – The BC Government tabled Bill 15, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act 2019 to allow the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to better fulfill its mandate of preserving the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
“The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was designed to protect farmland; only 5% of BC is in the ALR, and only 1% of all of BC is prime farmland — much of which is close to urban centres. Non-farm residential and non-farm commercial uses are becoming more numerous. They take advantage of tax breaks designed to foster farm production without meaningfully contributing to BC’s overall Farm Cash Receipts (FCR). We recommend that property tax benefits for agricultural land be reformed to ensure that the recipients are farmers, not speculators,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.
“With Surrey well on its way to be the largest city in BC, and one-third of Surrey’s land base being agricultural, it has never been more important to ensure food security for future generations.”
If passed, the legislation will strengthen the ALC by:
1. replacing the current ALC governance model of six panel regions and an executive committee with one commission maintaining regional representation by requiring membership from all six administrative regions;
2. providing the chair of the ALC with more flexibility to organize commission members into a decision-making panel on applications when warranted, by topic, technical expertise or by an administrative region;
3. adding new decision-making criteria to prioritize the protection and enhancement of the size, integrity and continuity of the land base that the ALC must consider when exercising any power or performing a duty under the ALCA;
4. adding more compliance and enforcement capacity and tools, including a new offence for landowners who do not produce records to the ALC when ordered; and,
5. requiring that exclusions be submitted to the ALC only by local governments, First Nations governments or the Province, to encourage applications be done as part of thoughtful land-use planning process.
Surrey is a powerful economic engine in British Columbia. Businesses from near and far are looking at Surrey as their choice to do business in. We stand at a critical juncture to make the right decisions and investments to create economic opportunities for a generation and beyond.
“Our Agriculture industry is at the foundation of those investments and innovations.”
The Surrey Board of Trade’s International and Industry Team has developed a plan of advocacy and activities for Surrey’s agriculture industry to support growers and food producers, working on priorities that take into account the business of agriculture from seed to shelf.
For more information: https://news.gov.bc.ca/ releases/2019AGRI0020-000336
Contact: Anita Huberman, CEO of Surrey Board of Trade, 604-634-0342 or firstname.lastname@example.org