The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is wary of new B.C. legislation that aims to protect agricultural land.
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce spoke about the legislation under Bill 15 which was introduced in the House Thursday modifying Agricultural Land Commission governance in B.C.
“While we wholeheartedly support the ongoing protection of farmland, we are cautious about moving decision-making out of the local area and out of the hands of individual farm owners. So long as there is solid regional representation – at least two people from the Okanagan remaining on the single commission – we can be supportive of changes to the ALC governance model,” said chamber president Carmen Sparg, in an emailed statement.
A key change to legislation is that only the province, local governments or “a prescribed public body” can apply to the newly reorganized ALC for an exclusion of farmland.
“In terms of taking away the ability of local landowners to apply directly for exclusions and moving that process to only local governments and First Nations governments, we remain cautious: generally our local municipality has worked well with landowners and the ALC, but those relationships need to be strengthened if the needs and interests of local agriculture are to be properly represented,” said Sparg.
“What’s truly important to us here in the Okanagan is the sustainability of our agricultural industry: from cattle to fowl, speciality artisanal products, our robust fruit and tree fruit industries, other farm crops for our local population and for markets around the world. Of equal and growing importance is the agri-tourism industry, growing every year, and often requiring innovative solutions where exclusions are required. We want any appointed commissioners to keep an open mind as our needs continue to evolve,” she said, in a statement.
“There is a wealth of local knowledge here in the Okanagan concerning all aspects of agriculture. We want fair protection of our valuable land base now and into the future. Our Chamber has always been a strong supporter of local agriculture in Kelowna and the Okanagan, and we know how difficult it sometimes is for the farming community to get clear answers when it comes to land use, exclusions, and working with other government bodies on issues governed by ALC rules and principles.”
“Like any new legislation,” Sparg said, “there will be details to come, especially on how decisions are made and applied, and how power is exercised. We will encourage the newly organized ALC to continue to work closely with municipalities, as has generally happened in the past here with the City of Kelowna. We look forward to the details of the legislation once it is debated and adopted.”
“We will be seeking further clarification from the Minister and corresponding regarding the issue,” she said.