ALR reforms ease way for breweries, value-added plants

Province hopes relaxed rules tempt farmers to branch out into new agri-business ventures

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick outlines changes to agri-business rules in the Agricultural Land Reserve at Evergreen Herbs in Surrey Monday.

Breweries, distilleries and meaderies will be allowed to open up on farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve provided they meet the same rules set out for wineries.

That’s one of a series of reforms announced by the province Monday that aim to make it easier for farmers to set up agricultural processing plants and otherwise earn more money from their land.

As with wineries in the ALR, at least half the farm ingredients that go into the beer, spirits or mead must be grown on the farm.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick noted hops farming is on an upswing in areas such as Chilliwack and Kamloops, and predicts the rule change will create an incentive for more farmers to take a risk and get into beverage production.

“If that means you can enjoy some mead or some beer on a piece of farmland and that’s what it takes to get that farmland back into production, I’m okay with that,” Letnick said in an interview at an herb farm in Surrey.

ALR land can also now be leased for farming without applying to the Agricultural Land Commission – a move the province hopes gets more unused land into production.

Another rule change will make value-added processing easier by letting farms band together as co-ops and count all their members’ crops toward meeting the same 50 per cent local content rule. That’s expected to allow clusters of farms to feed into a plant in the ALR that makes something like juice or jam without seeking ALC approval.

Metro Vancouver previously registered concern that looser rules for non-farm uses may result in less land being farmed and a further climb in farmland prices beyond what new farmers can afford.

“Some people wanted us to do more, some wanted us to do less,” Letnick said.

“I firmly that believe we’ve come up with the right balance that promotes agriculture and safeguards agriculture but also provide for more opportunities for farmers to earn income on their land.”

Winery restaurants in the ALR will now be allowed to serve alcohol they didn’t produce, such as beer.

Some reforms apply only on farmland outside the Lower Mainland, Letnick said, because he said farmers face a tougher struggle to earn a living in areas such as the Interior, North and Kootenays.

A second home can now be built on large parcels of at least 50 hectares in the ALR’s rural Zone 2 provided residential uses make up less than 43,000 square feet.

Letnick said that could allow farmers to build another house for family, lodging for workers, or a rental to earn extra money to support the farm.

Similarly, retiring farmers in Zone 2 will be allowed to sell the farm but lease back their farmhouse from the new farm owner, who can build another home on the property.

It’s hoped that will help those retiring farmers sell their farms but encourage them to stay there and perhaps mentor a new, younger farmer, Letnick said, and meet the challenge of the coming “generational change” in agriculture.

Second dwellings are still on the same parcel of land, which can’t be subdivided without asking the ALC.

More proposed reforms relating to agri-tourism are still being considered and are to be put to local governments for feedback in the fall.

Asked if he intends to increase the ALC’s budget so it can hire more compliance and enforcement officers – just three officers patrol the entire province for violations like illegal fill dumping – Letnick said that’s under consideration.

He said the ALC’s budget is now $3.4 million, up from $2 million, and potential increases will be discussed with new ALC chair Frank Leonard.

Just Posted

Blaney warns fraudulent CRA tax calls are on the rise

“We are asking people to please be careful.”

Students ‘wow’ at Annual Regional Science Fair

Kids from accross the North Island show off their science projects

Port Hardy Fire Rescue celebrates 50th anniversary

Port Hardy Fire Rescue (PHFR) is gearing up for a big anniversary… Continue reading

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

Port Alice CAO says goodbye for Sayward

“This decision was by no means an easy one to make.”

Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Apirl/May Hot Spots!

Find out what’s going on in the North Island (April 25 - May 2)

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

B.C. Hells Angels invited to rally by anti-SOGI organizer

The Culture Guard group has helped Hells Angels in the past, said its executive director.

Most Read