The province’s consultation on supporting farming in the Agricultural Land Reserve continued in Cranbrook on November 5, where 62 residents turned out to say the current system isn’t working for them.
“It’s important that you start listening,” said Randy Reay, a rancher from Jaffray and land use chair with the Kootenay Livestock Association.
The province almost didn’t listen, at least in the East Kootenays. It added this week’s meeting in Cranbrook, as well as one in Kamloops scheduled for November 14, after both residents and local government officials voiced concern at the distance they would have to travel to participate in meetings originally scheduled to end in Castlegar on October 30.
“Six meetings across the province for this round is kind of scant,” Walter Popoff, a director with the Regional District of Central Kootenay told James Mack, assistant deputy minister of agriculture at the Union of BC Municipalities convention at the end of September. “To get from Invermere or Radium into Castlegar, that’s two long days of travel; add more days now, please.”
Having done so, the province heard that sustaining farms for future generations is a key concern in the East Kootenays.
“Is the family farm a bad word?” Reay asked Mack, as well as Agricultural Land Commission chair Jennifer Dyson and CEO Kim Grout.
Speakers repeatedly slammed the government’s rule that only mobile homes can be erected as secondary residences, and then, only for family members. They want the province to allow permanent housing that will increase in value, not depreciate.
“I don’t want to move into a trailer,” says Reay. “And I don’t want to move off the farm; I still have some years of experience to lend to my children.”
He said that in any other business he would be allowed to divide the assets of his business among his children and they could all continue to be full participants. The rules governing the ALR make this incredibly difficult for farm families, he argued.
“It wouldn’t work in any other business, so fix it,” he said.
The current consultation ends November 15. Those unable to attend one of the public meetings can submit feedback online at [engage.gov.bc.ca/supportingfarmers]. The province will release a summary of all feedback received.
With files from Peter Mitham