May 12, 2015
VICTORIA – The B.C. Agriculture Council is raising the alarm over use of protected agricultural land for a carbon offset scheme, say B.C.’s New Democrats.
“It makes no sense that we have over a million hectares of forest lands that haven’t been replanted with trees, while we watch prime, protected agricultural land meant for farming food get converted to forests to be used as carbon sinks,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan.
In a letter to the agriculture minister, the B.C. Agriculture Council raised the concerns, stating “There is no mechanism to ensure that the ALC is aware of proposed restrictive covenants at the time of the registration. This means that the Agency delegated with the authority to protect farm land has no way of monitoring what is happening.”
“The B.C. Liberals have no idea what’s happening on the land,” said Horgan. “The minister believed up until last week that only 1,500 hectares had been converted for a carbon offset scheme, but now the government has admitted the actual amount is more than 8,000 hectares.”
Horgan and New Democrat spokesperson for agriculture and food Lana Popham brought the issue to the legislature on Monday.
“The agriculture minister doesn’t have a handle on this issue even though it was first brought to his attention last summer,” said Popham. “He continues to state that the Agricultural Land Commission has the tools it needs to put a stop to this activity on the ALR – but they do not. The minister is hiding behind shabby legislation.”
The B.C. Agriculture Council agrees that the ALC doesn’t usually find out about the restricted covenants required for carbon offset schemes until after the land has been removed from production or a complaint has been lodged
“Minister Letnick’s approach when it comes to the ALR is not good enough. He needs to acknowledge the problems in the legislation and fix them,” said Popham.
Popham will be tabling legislation before the end of the month that would provide a much needed mechanism for the Agricultural Land Commission, giving them the ability to turn down applications for carbon sequestration programs if they are not in the best interest of B.C. agriculture.