Farmland in Surrey. (Photo: Surrey.ca)

Farmland in Surrey. (Photo: Surrey.ca)

B.C. Agriculture minister sends Surrey ‘stern’ letter for nixing agriculture advisory committee

Cities intending to restrict or prohibit agriculture within a farming area may need to be ‘regulated,’ Lana Popham warned

Provincial Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has strong words for Surrey council for dissolving the city’s “longstanding and well-respected” Agriculture and Food Policy Advisory Committee.

“I am disappointed that the city leadership did not seek dialogue nor public input prior to the planned committee re-assignment,” Popham wrote in a letter to Surrey council on Feb. 23. “It was brought to my attention than not even the members of the AFPAC were aware of the imminent dissolution of the committee.”

“Please be reminded that municipalities with the intention to restrict or prohibit agriculture within a farming area may need to become ‘regulated’ under Section 553 of the Local Government Act,” she warned.

Popham said committees such as the AFPAC provide “invaluable” input to civic governments to make sure planning and decisions are consistent with a local government’s obligation to support agriculture in accordance with the Agricultural Land Commission Act and the Local Government Act.

homelessphoto

Lana Popham, B.C.’s agriculture minister. (Photo submitted)

Popham noted that as Surrey is the largest city geographically in Metro Vancouver, with more than 9,000 hectares in the Agricultural Land Reserve, it is “poised to play a role in supporting the primary production of safe local produce and bolstering food security for the region.” That said, she told council it’s been her experience that “active involvement of local producers in the fabric of local government is the foundation of a vibrant and economically sustainable agricultural sector.”

On Dec. 7, the Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council voted to dissolve the AFPAC and fold it, along with the Environment Advisory Committee, into a new Agricultural, Environment and Investment Committee with Council Allison Patton as its chairwoman, Councillor Mandeep Nagra as its vice-chairman, and also Councillor Jack Hundial plus three community members.

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor ‘nullifying’ public’s voice by rejigging city committees, councillor charges

The agriculture minister called the new joint committee “concerning” and noted that ministry staff advise her that having only three experts between the two disciplines “will not likely provide adequate representation for Surrey’s diverse agricultural community.”

Patton in reply said it’s hard for her to comment “at the moment” because she hasn’t spoken to city staff yet about Popham’s concerns. “I may have skimmed the letter but I’m not sure it was brought to my attention, no, not yet.”

The new committee has met twice, Patton said. “The good news is this committee doesn’t want to do anything to restrict agriculture, so I think that in time perhaps she can observe the committee and perhaps adjust her viewpoint over time if she feels that’s warranted for her,” she said. “A lot of the farmers want improved productivity, and local farm-to-table and produce and other products, so we’re looking at how can we help these farmers to do that.”

Popham was alerted to the situation by Surrey Councillors Hundial and Brenda Locke, of the rival Surrey Connect slate.

“If the province decides to regulate Surrey’s farmland, it’s huge,” Locke said.

“I can tell you Langley, Abbotsford, Delta and Kelowna I think have all been regulated and I know they’re not happy. I know for sure Langley’s trying to get out of it but it’s a forever deal, like it was 20 years ago that they regulated them.”

Hundial told the Now-Leader that people in the agriculture sector need to be aware of these recent developments in Surrey.

“It’s a pretty hard stand for her to take on it,” Hundial said of Popham, “but I think that’s partly because she sees the risk of not having the public engaged in developing policy that involves farmland. I mean the city is a product of the province and I think people sometimes tend to forget that.

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Taking Surrey’s civic issues to a bigger arena

“So for the minister to come out and issue really such a stern letter should be a clear indication that I don’t think she’s too happy with the decision made by the mayor, and secondly, there will be oversight provided,” Hundial said. “Once she invokes those powers, under the Act, it makes things a lot more complicated and laborious for applications coming out of the city absolutely to deal with agriculture and also the decision-making process around when you start looking at land and the uses, or ALR land.”

Hundial added that Popham’s concern about having only three experts on a committee dealing with both agriculture and the environment is “absolutely spot-on.”

“Even the three councillors, myself included, that are on that committee, none of us are experts in the ALR,” the retired Surrey Mountie noted. Patton is a naturopath and Nagra is a businessman.

“And you can only have three individuals from the farming community, you know, Surrey is so much larger than that,” Hundial said. “When you look at one third of our land mass is ALR, it makes it very difficult to bring that level of expertise here.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

Agricultural Land ReserveAgricultureCity of Surrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read