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My position, taken several years ago, that the Smart Growth has taken the spotlight of the need to preserve farmland in British Columbia has been vindicated. Here is a report on the ALR and a legal opinion on the status of ALR at present, written for Smart Growth BC.

The conclusion, which I quote below, is quite clear:

The concepts of farmland preservation and community need are fundamentally incompatible. Farmland preservation, itself, can be regarded as the cornerstone of community need and sustainability. It is non-renewable agricultural land (the ALR in B.C.) that ensures that there will be land available to provide for the most basic of community needs ? a secure food supply ? as communities continue to grow. This is a long-term objective. Community need typically responds to shorter-term land use deficiencies, often based on historical, often exceedingly inefficient, development patterns that do not accord with longer-term regional goals. True cases of community need, for example applications for exclusion of land from the ALR for regional or provincial infrastructure, are exceptions that warrant detailed regional review and debate.

In conclusion, the incompatibility of preserving agricultural land and attending to community needs leaves British Columbian?s with two choices: (1) reaffirm the provincial priority to preserve farmland by removing from the Service Plan statements about decisions based on community need; or (2) amend section 6 of the Act to expand the purposes of the Commission and ALR in recognition that there is no longer a provincial priority for preserving agricultural land. The former choice will see the continuation of the province?s effective farmland preservation program. The latter choice will convert the ALR to an urban reserve and farmland to non-farm uses in many local jurisdictions in the near future. This choice will have fundamental implications for regional sustainability ? economic, environmental and social ? and in particular food security.

As Moura Quayle concluded in her landmark report that clarified the ?provincial interest? question in 1998, p59 Without the courage to hold firm, with stakes in the ground, there will be no incentive to better manage our land base in the face of competing uses. We must halt the slow but steady erosion of our agriculture and food resources, and support our varied agricultural industries. As a forward thinking society, we must dig in, take responsibility, and make sure that future generations have a vibrant agricultural land base.

Here’s the pdf file alrandcommunityneed2007.pdf

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