New Dems worried that the Agricultural Land Reserve is being undermined

Worried about the decline in land protected through the Agricultural Land Reserve?

Well, you can voice those concerns directly to Opposition Agriculture Critic Lana Popham when she visits Revelstoke on Oct. 18.

MLA Norm Macdonald’s office said Popham will touring the riding and plans to be here “for a tour specifically focusing on sustainable food production in the area.”

APopham has been deeply critical of the provincial government in light of a new report from the Auditor General who says the Agricultural Land Reserve is being undermined leaving B.C.’s valuable farmland at risk of being lost forever.

“As we face an increasing population and the impact of climate change, it is more important than ever to promote local food production and develop the green jobs that our agricultural sector has to offer,” Popham said last week.

“But instead of listening to British Columbians who are saying they want to see more local food in their grocery stores, this report shows the B.C. Liberals have been undermining the Agricultural Land Reserve.”

The report notes that despite the fact that 95 per cent of British Columbians support the ALR, the amount of agricultural land in the ALR on the south coast has declined by eight per cent and the amount of agricultural land in the ALR on Vancouver Island has declined by 13 per cent since the reserve was created by the then-New Democrat government in 1973.

“Less than five per cent of British Columbia’s land base is suitable for agriculture, which is why we must protect the farmland we have, especially in the face of an increasing population and a changing climate,” said Popham. “British Columbians want access to fresh food from local farmers. It’s time for the B.C. Liberal government to listen up and stop undermining the ALR.”

The Auditor General’s report also says the B.C. Liberals have cut the budget for the Agricultural Land Commission by more than 28 percent since 2002.

“The commission doesn’t have the resources it needs to ensure it fulfills its mandate of preserving productive farmland, let alone the staff to dedicate to enforcement and evaluation of the hundreds of applications that come to the commission every year,” said Popham.

“If protecting our agricultural resources was important to the B.C. Liberals, they’d start by ensuring the commission had the resources it needs to protect the ALR.”