Changes to ALR taking time

It's a transition phase for the Agricultural Land Commission, but significant changes are expected to begin in the spring, says the chair.

Although the applications for exclusion from the Agricultural Land Reserve keep flooding in, commission chair Richard Bullock says they’ve reduced the flow somewhat and more changes are coming.

Bullock, a Kelowna orchardist who took over as chair of the Agricultural Land Commission about a year and a half ago, immediately embarking on a review of the 40-year-old ALR and coming up with a series of recommendation for changes in direction.

A year later, he admits such changes take time, but he says he hopes that by spring next year some of those changes will be underway.

Digitizing material so that much of the business of the ALC can be done online was one of the first orders of business, and that work is currently going on.

Once that’s done, he says they’ll be in a position to move people around the province instead of all staff working out of the Burnaby office.

“There’s some amazing technology out there that we’ve missed,” he noted.

Because civic governments from around the province continue to pass on recommendations to the ALC for exclusions and other actions, Bullock says the commission has no choice but to deal with them.

However, he says he has been meeting with regional districts and municipalities around the province and he’s encouraged by changing attitudes toward the ALR.

“There’s a new generation of local politicians who have more awareness of the environment and of the ALR. There’s a change in thinking, with the younger generation of politicians more positive and more accepting of the ALR,” he commented.

“I think people are willing to accept that it’s here to stay. It won’t happen overnight, but changes in attitude are needed,” he said.

He promised once the ALC’s transition period is over, there will be some interesting things happen.

Agricultural advisory committees such as already operate in Kelowna and West Kelowna, are being encouraged by the new chair, but he hastens to add, “I can’t tell local groups what to do.”

The ALC has good working relationships with both those municipal governments, he said.

One thing that has surprised him in his travels around the province is the attitude toward local produce, local agriculture.

“I would never have guessed that local products would have such a high profile. That’s hugely important for society,” he commented.

He pointed to the Kootenay community of Nelson which shuts down its main street every Wednesday for its farmers’ market. He said people come out in droves to pick up fresh produce.

The ALC has made recommendations to the agriculture ministry regarding a sustainable model for the body, involving user fees, but the ministry is still reviewing the comments and feedback on possible fee structures and hasn’t made a decision yet on details of a new model.



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