April 30 deadline for ALR review input approaches

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Farmers and other concerned members of the public have until the end of the month to submit their thoughts about an initiative to revitalize provincial agriculture protections.

A public engagement process launched by Agriculture Minister Lana Popham in February draws to a close on April 30. A specially convened committee will then process the contributions and make recommendations to the minister around the Agricultural Land Reserve and its governing body, the Agricultural Land Commission. Stated goals are to preserve and strengthen farming and food production capacity within the ALR, as well as its administration.

The Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance has been collecting input from local farmers and member organizations, which include the Salt Spring Farmers’ Institute, Island Natural Growers and the Community Market Society, among other groups. Elizabeth White, who is SSAA secretary and represents one of the two Farmers’ Institute seats on its board of directors, said feedback is being collected before the submission deadline.

“We’re still deliberating on what we’re going to be saying on the various issues, but we are going to be responding for sure,” White reported.

One issue that has some local farmers alarmed is the idea the farming income threshold for property tax exemption might be raised. The Farmers’ Institute received a letter at its April 10 board meeting that draws attention to the threat that raising the threshold could bring to Gulf Island farms, the majority of which are found on small acreages. Currently it’s possible to get a property tax break if the owner can prove at least $2,500 of farming income in a given year.

The Ministry of Agriculture survey can be found at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/agriculturallandreserve/. The advisory committee is expected to provide a final report to the minister this fall.

For more on this story, see the April 11, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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