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The Agricultural Land Reserve

The B.C. Federation of Agriculture (B.C.F.A.) brief of January, 1973, was meaningful and eloquent in outlining the economically deprived plight of many farmers and the potential effects of the Land Commission Act. If the provincial government was going to make it impossible to use designated farmland for other than agricultural purposes, that same government must make sure that farmers recovered their costs of production. Although the B.C.F.A. supported the preservation of farmland, the organization had real qualms about the effects it would have on farmers:

We regard the whole subject of preservation of farmland and the subsequent responsibilities as being the most important issue our industry has faced for many years. . . . It touches subjects far beyond real estate speculation and farmland development. . . . 82 per cent of B.C. farmers receive less than federal unemployment insurance benefits, while a substantial number of farm families make do on incomes below current welfare rates. . . .

We submit that when the government moves towards the preservation of farmland, it must be accepted [that] there are equal obligations to that industry . . . an obligation to see that the industry itself is given the opportunity to grow and prosper, and an obligation to ensure that society provides equity for farmers.

Once the dust had settled after the passage of Bill 42 (the "Land Commission Act"), the B.C.F.G.A. was prepared to work with the provincial government. Its former president, Arthur Garrish, was appointed to the five member provincial Land Commission. It advised Cabinet on which lands could be excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve. The B.C.F.G.A., as part of the B.C. Federation of Agriculture, made submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture, promoting the implementation of the Farm Income Assurance program.

A receptive government listened. One of its goals for the spring session of the Legislature was the passage of legislation to preserve farmland; a goal for the fall session was the passage of legislation "to preserve the farmer." Premier Barrett declared that agriculture was to be the most important part of the agenda for the autumn sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

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