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

From the left: Beth Plotnikoff, Madeline Williams, Shannon Frederick and Sheryl McIver pose for a photo outside their Market Avenue t-shirt stand Saturday, April 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks businesses raise money for Phoenix snow cat

T-shirt proceeds to go toward a used snow groomer for the mountain

A class is in isolation after a potential exposure at J.V. Humphries School in Kaslo. Photo: School District 8
Kaslo school’s class isolated due to possible COVID-19 exposure

A class at J.V. Humphries School is home for the week

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

Jake the service dog is trained to give calming hugs to his caretaker and handler, Rae-Lynee Dicks, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Jake and Rae-Lynne: The story of a Grand Forks woman and her service dog

Jake is on his way to completing his training, but it’s been difficult to socialize him in the pandemic

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Kimberley's Steve Tersmette has published Waterfall Hikes In Southern British Columbia, documenting 100 of the areas waterfalls.
Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read