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

COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in the Kootenays. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Highest weekly number of new COVID-19 cases in 2021 for Nelson

The Nelson local health area had 13 new cases in early April

ANKORS held a small demonstration outside Nelson City Hall and the courthouse Wednesday to mark the five-year anniversary of the province declaring the toxic drug supply crisis. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘We’re all supposed to take care of each other’: 5 years of toxic drug supply crisis marked in Nelson

Over 7,000 people have died in B.C. since the crisis was announced in 2016

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

School District 8 says a COVID-19 exposure has occurred at Nelson’s Rosemont Elementary. Photo: School District 8
Class at Nelson’s Rosemont Elementary in isolation after COVID-19 exposure

It’s not clear if any students or teachers were infected

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’

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

(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

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

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

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Most Read