Province announces farming regulation changes

The province announced today new regulations and changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act it says will help farmers in northern BC make more money off their land.

The changes, part of Bill 24 introduced in the legislature last year, essentially carve the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones, with one zone specifically for regions outside the Okanagan, south coast and Vancouver Island areas of the provinces.

In a press release coinciding with an announcement in Dawson Creek today, the province said new regulations will allow landowners to pursue alternative developments on those lands.

The new regulations place the north in Zone 2 of the Agricultural Land Reserve, along with the Interior and Kootenay regions, where the province says growing seasons are shorter.

The province said the changes will better allow retiring farmers who have been in the business for 15-plus years to sell their property, but continue living in their home with a life-term lease to the new owners, while keep their farmland in production.

The province says the changes will also allow landowners with parcels greater than 50 hectares to build a second home on their land for rental income or family purposes, provided that the total land used for housing is less than a combined 43,000 square feet.

The province says changes will allow farmers to do more with their land without applications to the Agricultural Land Commission, and allow for “value-added farming,” with the new construction of facilities like wineries or distilleries on ALR land.

Final decisions on any of these developments will now be in the hands of a regional panel, instead of their ALC itself.