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Land use, ALR and farming

By Mike Schneider - Posted on 11 May 2012

Things are complicated in the world of food and farming!
How do local farmers compete and does the agricultural land reserve really play a role in food security?
From the Delta Oprimist.....

To some, "Ours to preserve by hand and heart," means preservation of farmland. This motto was incorporated as part of Delta's coat of arms as proclaimed by then lieutenant governor Robert G. Rogers and presented to mayor and council on March 15, 1988.

The coat of arms portrays Delta's farming and fishing industries and is a visual metaphor for Delta's geographic location, bordered by the Fraser River and Boundary Bay. The motto is a continuing invitation to strengthen and preserve Delta's special qualities.

This noble coat of arms is a symbol of what this municipality was as compared to the present and the future. We have essentially lost our fishing heritage but we drive past the Fraser River and do not lament that loss.

We drive past privately owned farmland and feel it's "our right" to ensure these lands remain as they are today. That is visually what we like, enjoy and wish to retain. This open space and tranquility is the primary reason many put down roots in this community.

This "special quality" of Delta comes at great cost to some. We don't lament the loss of our fishing industry and we don't really empathize with the plight of the farmer.

I laud Trevor Harris for his recent letter noting the loss of fundamental rights of a landowner by the legislation creating the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Delta's growing season for mixed field crops is very limited with less than optimal results. This is compared to long seasonal growing in Washington, California and Mexico, to name a few locations south of us. Even the Fraser Valley has a much longer grow cycle.

Local farmers can't compete on costs, volume and variety of product. We feel good when we see "Buy Local" signs, but for the most part we buy on price.

I am not aware of any similar government legislation in Canada, the United States or Europe that fundamentally takes rights away from owners and anchors them to land and a way of life that is no longer viable.

I strongly believe, and I hope I'm not alone when I say this, that the farmer should be compensated for their loss of development rights.

I, too, like to live by and drive past open farm fields, but I'm troubled by the effect of this legislation on the farmer. Seemingly we have more lobbying for preserving Delta's wildfowl and migratory birds. Farmers have supported the wildlife alliance for the betterment of all.

In some cases we now have the fifth generation of families in farm operations. They have the benefit of inheriting these lands. Not all their children wish to take up farming in this difficult economic climate. I'm confident in stating there is little chance a bona fide traditional farmer can buy farmland, service the capital cost and support themselves. More greenhouses are likely, as is absentee ownership.

And let's not forget our own provincial and federal governments intruding on the ALR for regional and national interests.

There is a tipping point on acreage where wholesalers of farm products look elsewhere.

And a good night to you, Trevor.

I think that each application for exclusion should be viewed with careful scrutiny. Ever improving technologies are advancing so fast that food can be grown almost anywhere.I do not believe that soil based crops are the sole answer to the notion of food security

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