image courtesy Freedigitalphotos
Victoria News Daily (13 September 2010)reports that Metro Vancouver is pursuing a Regional Food Systems Strategy that may involve Vancouver becoming a "farm landlord." When discussing agriculture, the metro van website points out:
Agriculture is an essential component of a sustainable region and a resilient food system. The agricultural industry contributes to the regional economy, supplies healthy food, and maintains farmland that provides public amenity benefits such as green space and wildlife habitat. The Metro Vancouver region is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Canada due to the rich alluvial soils of the Fraser delta, excellent climate and proximity to the country's third largest urban market. Remarkably, the region generates 27% of B.C.'s total farm income on less than 1.5% of the province’s farmland.They've also managed to build over most of that "most productive agricultural area," which is why in 1972 the NDP brought in the Agricultural Land Reserve: to preserve the province's farmland.
(from the ALR website)
The problem is that it has become progressively easier for developers to target chunks of the ALR for development--particularly under the "business-friendly" Social Credit Party and Liberal Party governments.
Metro Van is noticing this steady erosion of the ALR, and Richmond councilor Harold Steves, chairman of the Metro Agricultural Committee, has suggested that a share of development cost charges applied on new construction, or when highway projects alienate large areas of farmland, be directed to a farmland acquisition fund.
The acquisition fund could be used to purchase threatened farmland, which would then be leased to farmers--particularly those who are facing significant barriers to entry--or used to create model farms.
When the ALR was created in 1972, BC grew almost 86% of the fresh food consumed in province. By 2010, that percentage had shrunk to 48%. Councilor Steves has pointed out that this leaves the Greater Vancouver region extremely vulnerable to any disruption in the "continuous convoy of trucks coming from Mexico and California." Steves argues that this situation is "dire" and requires immediate steps to restore production to the Lower Mainland.