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of agriculture and agricultural land,” he said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

Young farmers from Sea Bluff Farms in

Metchosin on Vancouver Island caused quite a stir with this

light-hearted group ‘felfie’ post.

diverse as the province itself and have been very useful in my deliberations.” Letnick said the amendments allow the ALC chair or regional panel to refer applications to the ALC’s executive committee, “if the chair determines that a decision could have substantial impact on the ALR. The executive committee consists of the chair and the six vice chairs, one from each region. “Criteria will be clearly defined in regulation and could include, for example, applications with inter- regional significance, major land or large infrastructure considerations, new types of applications that have not been considered before or when the local panel determines it is best heard by the provincial committee.”

The minister said Bill 24 also is being amended to clearly outline, in priority order, the criteria the commission must consider for all

land-use decisions in zone 2 (North, Interior and Kootenays).

“This priority list will begin with whether the ALC considers the proposal to meet with the purposes of the commission, namely the preservation of agricultural land, encouraging farming and enabling farm use on agricultural land. All other factors would follow in descending order of priority.

“This change is intended to confirm the ALC’s priority remains preserving farming and ensuring panels make decisions in the best interests of agriculture.”

The B.C. Agriculture Council, which initially appeared to support Bill 24, withdrew that support on April 17. “BCAC cautiously supported the legislation when it was tabled, based on verbal information, based on video

6 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2014

conference calls with the minister and the draft press release. After reviewing the actual legislation, and hearing farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns, BCAC had no choice but to withdraw its support,” said Stan Vander Waal, who replaced Rhonda Driediger as chair of BCAC shortly after the proposed changes were announced.

“I think we’re genuinely afraid that (the changes) will trump the well-being

The new minister issued a statement on April 23 inviting consultation with the industry and public about Bill 24, saying he was willing to reconsider the legislation. The following day, Bennett appeared to put the agriculture minister in his place, saying the legislation would not be delayed or substantially changed. And then … nothing, as government and the agriculture council went silent on the matter until Letnick’s announcement. NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons was unimpressed with the amendments and said the bill should never have been created. He claimed the changes have no support in the province, “and it's becoming more important to protect farmland because of climate change, which will result in a reduction in crops and an increase in prices.”

"This is probably the worst piece of legislation I've seen in this house and I've seen a lot of bad legislation," said Simons.

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