Chilliwack council wanted to make sure the voices of the local agri-tourism sector were heard loud and clear by Ministry of Agriculture.
Council approved a resolution, from the Agricultural Advisory Committee resolution, to ask for more time.
“We wanted to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard,” said Coun. Chris Kloot, chair of the ag advisory committee.
B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture is currently soliciting feedback and commentary from the ag sector on a range of issues, and had originally set a deadline of Dec. 1. That deadline for input on the Ministry’s discussion paper and Proposed Minister’s Bylaw Standard, titled “Regulating Agri-tourism and Farm Retail Sales in the Agriculture Land Reserve,” was extended to Jan. 15, but some said that date was still not enough time to complete a submission.
“We met with some of the local stakeholders and they’re concerned that they weren’t asked to be part of that discussion,” said Kloot.
The resolution from the AAC, approved by Chilliwack council, favours a two-tiered ALR, and the principle of increased ag-tourism activities with no net loss to agricultural land. It also makes the request that the deadline for input be extended one more time — to March 31.
Some operators took issue with the idea in the discussion paper that an ag-tourism revenues can only augment a farmer’s income, rather than exceed or replace it.
“The problem is that gate sales will exceed crop income, so we were not in favour of the income-based approach. We’re all asking them to reconsider how accessory farm activity is determined,” said Kloot. “So we’re looking for a bit of clarity from the minister.”
The ministry’s discussion paper tackles issues such as the division of the ALR into two zones, the role of local governments, whether to allow weddings, as well as how much income an agri-tourism operation can generate in contrast to farm retail sales.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said council was hoping its request for another deadline extension will be honoured by the province.
“Some said they would have to scramble to get submissions in by the 15th of January,” she said.
Coun. Jason Lum said they recognized the tremendous value offered by ag-tourism operations.
“There was also tremendous concern with the one-size-fits-all approach,” Lum said.
“That will not serve the community well, and we hope the province is listening on this one and will extend the deadline.”