Thursday, August 14, 2008

ALR in BC

I was looking through the report of the Agricultural Land Commission of BC - it is the sort of thing that I need to do from time to time in relation to my work. The stats in the report are interesting.

BC has 4.7 million hectares of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The ALR has been around in BC since the early 1970s and in 34 years the amount of land in the ALR has stayed close to 4.7 million hectares. There has not been a net loss of agricultural land in BC over the last generation.

The system is generally working very well, but that is not what you would think if you hear the cries of the Cassandras that believe we are running out of agricultural land. The net change in ALR in 2007 was a loss of 626 hectares of agricultural land in BC. This is a tiny amount, this is an amount that is almost unmeasurable when compared to the amount of land that is in the ALR.

Most people are focused on a few small areas when it comes to ALR - the south Island, Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan. Yes, there seems to be drop in ALR in those areas, but the worries about these areas ignores the bigger picture in the province. For a start, the Capital Regional District has very little land I would want to farm, it is marginal. Secondly, these areas are where the population is growing. Agriculture and suburbanites do not mix well - look at the problems farmers have in Delta with a council that seems opposed to active farming, or the actions of Saanich against the proposed blueberry farm on Panama flats.

4.7 million hectares of land is a large area - this is 47 000 square kilometres! This is an area bigger than Switzerland or Denmark. This is an area only 15% smaller than Nova Scotia.

Most of this land is not being used to produce much at all. We have a huge reserve of land sitting there if we ever need it to produce food. In theory one could produce 47 million tonnes of food from this land - more than a tonne of food per Canadian.

The ALC has done a very good job in protecting lands within the ALR. The changes that happen each year are tiny and not something to be worried about. At the rate we are going, we will have a lot of agricultural land for generations and generations into the future.
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