I had never given much thought to the ALR. Honestly, I took it for granted because it’s just common sense to protect the farmland which feeds us, period.
The ALR town hall meeting in Nelson saw a room packed with people who care about food. Why? Because the BC government is moving to divide and weaken the ALR.
The ALR was set up because farmers were concerned with the rapid loss of farmland in BC. It became the election issue of 1973, and voila, the ALR and its governing body the ALC were born. The ALR protects farming in BC by keeping the price of land low provided it is used to grow food. This is no small feat. As Corky Evans said, “If we hadn’t seen fit to pass the law protecting farmland in 1973 there is no way we could manage to do so now. It was possible then to consider such a vision, policy and law. It is almost unfathomable today to imagine a government, anywhere, achieving a similar objective”.
In BC, only five per cent of the land is arable and it is under constant pressure from a variety of non farming interests. Governments of all stripes have lent a sympathetic ear to real estate developers, energy development and other interests which have whittled away at the ALR. Prior to 1973, 6,000 hectares of farmland were lost annually. Under the ALR, that has slowed to less than 500 hectares per year.
Today, we have more reason than ever to protect our farms. Public support for the ALR has been consistently strong. In 2008, 95 per cent of respondents (2008 Ipsos Reid Poll12) said they support the ALR preserving farm land.
Climate change is wreaking havoc with global weather systems which have a direct impact on growing food. Presently, California is experiencing a severe water shortage. What will we eat if they cannot produce enough for export?
Farmers’ markets and locally produced food and products are wildly popular, sales growing by leaps and bounds. This benefits farmers, consumers, local and provincial coffers.
The Liberal Government’s proposal to divide and weaken the ALR is presumably to ease the way for resource development in the north. Farming and gas extraction cannot occupy the same piece of land. Once the oil and gas industry gets its hands on it, it’s no longer good for farming. We can’t eat oil.
Review the ALR if you must, but only to strengthen it. This is the only logical conclusion.