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Farmland critical to feed future generations

By Hannah Scott (Local Journalism Initiative reporter) and Don Fennell

Published 3:12 PDT, Tue October 13, 2020

Richmond-Queensborough

Richmond’s rich agricultural land is an asset the community holds dear. There are farms nestled in all corners of the city, but nowhere is more replete with agricultural land than the city’s east side, within the Richmond-Queensborough riding.

Last election, the riding was a tight race between incumbent BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal and BC NDP candidate Aman Singh. Johal and Singh are going head-to-head in this election too, joined by BC Conservative candidate Kay Hale and Earl Einarson of the BC Green Party.

The Richmond Sentinel asked the candidates what they thought was the importance of the agricultural land reserve (ALR), and what changes they would like to see made. All three candidates who responded—Hale, Johal and Singh—agreed that the ALR is an important aspect of BC legislature.

“We want to make sure it is modernized to reflect the needs of local residents and provide a good living for farmers,” says Johal. “We also need to turn our focus to increasing food security through the use of agri-tech.”

Aiming to drive farming production in the coming years, Johal says Richmond should look to global leaders like the Netherlands and Singapore as examples of how to handle agricultural land.

“We have the best land and the best farmers,” he says. “There is no reason Richmond cannot be a world leader.”

Hale says the ALR regulations should be revisited in order to protect the valuable land from developers. Richmond’s city councillors, too, have often debated the principle of large houses or developments on agricultural land, since nearly 40 per cent of the city exists within the ALR and therefore must abide by its rules. Prior to Richmond’s emergence as an urban centre, even more of the land was dedicated to farming.

Singh highlights the importance of a strong supply chain, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know many residents of Richmond who prefer to buy food that was produced locally rather than having it shipped from halfway around the world,” he says. “The agricultural land reserves help ensure a resilient, sustainable food system that works for farmers and communities.”

He says the BC NDP’s reforms to the ALR system give farming families flexibility, as well as allowing them to work with local governments to protect farmland and food systems for future generations.

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