The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was established in 1973 to protect prime farm and ranch lands across the province. It currently protects approximately 4.6 million hectares of diverse, agriculturally-suitable land in British Columbia. The ALR is administered by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an independent tribunal mandated to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming.

In Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, legislative amendments to B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission Act were enacted to encourage farming and ranching in British Columbia and strengthen the independence of the ALC to better fulfill its mandate of preserving the ALR. The legislative changes are part of government’s commitment to revitalizing the ALR and the ALC. Some of the highlights include:

Bill 52 – 2018 provided for three key changes:

  • Directly addressing mega-mansions and speculation in the ALR by limiting size of primary residences in the ALR and empowering ALC to approve additional residences for farm use
  • Restricting the removal of soil and increased penalties for dumping of construction debris and other harmful fill in the ALR
  • Reunifying the ALR as a single zone, ensuring consistent rules with strong protections for all provincial ALR land

Bill 52 was brought into force on February 22, 2019, through regulation which are available via this link: Order in Council (OIC) No. 067/2019.

Bill 15 – 2019 strengthened the ALC to further protect the ALR by:

  • Replacing the ALC governance structure of six panel regions with one commission comprised of regional representatives from all six regions
  • Providing the ALC Chair with more flexibility to organize commission members into decision-making panels by topic, technical expertise or administrative region
  • Adding new criteria stipulating that the ALC must prioritize protecting and enhancing the ALR land base
  • Adding more compliance and enforcement capacity and tools, including a new offence for landowners who do not produce records to the ALC when ordered
  • Requiring that applications for excluding property from the ALC may only be submitted to the ALC by local governments, First Nations governments or the Province in order to improve land-use planning in the ALR

Bill 15 received Royal Assent on May 30, 2019, and will be brought into force by regulation.

These legislative changes will help to preserve the ALR and make farmland more affordable for new farmers. They are designed to protect B.C.’s farmland so residents can access locally grown food, and communities and local economies can prosper through the growth of farming, ranching and agriculture businesses.