Navigating Agricultural Land Commission Regulations in British Columbia

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a provincial zone that recognizes agriculture as the priority use for land, encouraging farming while restricting non-agricultural uses. The ALR consists of about 5% of BC’s total land and covers areas with the greatest agricultural capacity.

The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) was established to safeguard the valuable agricultural resources of the province and to preserve and protect agricultural land in the province. The ALC reports to the Cabinet of British Columbia and is administered by BC’s Ministry of Agriculture.

The ALC enforces regulations aimed at ensuring sustainable farming practices and the long-term sustainability of the agricultural industry. The Agricultural Land Commission Act, S.B.C. 2002, c.36 (the “ALC Act”), is a high-level statute that outlines the principles and general rules for safeguarding agricultural land in British Columbia. The Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation specifies the uses of ALR land. ALR landowners that intend to pursue different uses or subdivide their property must apply under the ALC Act and receive approval from the ALC. Although other laws and bylaws may also apply to the land, the ALC Act takes precedence over them.

If you are looking to buy property that falls under ALR zoning, it is important to be aware of the activities that are allowed or prohibited on this land. In the ALR, agricultural and farming uses are permitted. However, non-agricultural uses and subdivisions are generally not allowed, unless they are permitted by the regulations or specifically authorized by the Agricultural Land Commission. Understanding the ALR is important for landowners along with potential owners to ensure compliance with regulations for the appropriate use of land;

ALC Regulations define land use planning within the ALR, emphasizing agriculture to be the primary land use.
– ALC approval is required for any non-farm use of ALR land, ensuring that the land use activities align with preserving agricultural resources.
– Exclusion or inclusion of land within the ALR requires consideration of factors such as soil quantity, climate, and the overall impact on agricultural viability.
– The ALC closely monitors subdivision and land fragmentation within the ALR to prevent the loss of valuable farmland.
– Strict guidelines govern the creation of new lots to maintain the integrity of agricultural operations.
– Farm owners planning non-farm activities, such as agritourism or value-added processing, must obtain ALC approval.
– The ALC assesses applications based on their potential impact on the surrounding agricultural environment.
– ALC regulations promote environmentally sustainable farming practices, encouraging farm owners to adopt eco-friendly techniques. The regulations include soil conservation, water management, and wildlife habitat preservation.

The Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation was approved by British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor in Council on February 22, 2019. This brought changes into force for the Agricultural Land Commission Act under Bill 52 – 2018, Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, 2018 – the changes address three critical issues impacting the ALR:

1. Stop building luxurious and lifestyle estates in ALR.
2. Enforce strict rules to prevent illegal dumping in ALR.
3. Remove the artificial ‘two-zone’ separation of ALR.

With that said, effective December 31, 2021, the government did ease rules for building secondary homes and suites on BC’s ALR. This means that property owners can now obtain approval to construct a second home or suite for different purposes, such as renting it out, using it for farm worker lodging, agritourism, or allowing extended family members to use it for non-farm use. If you are interested in more specific details on these rules, check out this article on Changes to Housing Rules on ALR Land – Effective December 2021.

It is important to be compliant with ALC guidelines and to remain informed on any new regulations or changes. Any development plans must ensure strict compliance with the ALC regulations outlining the sustainable use of farmland. If you are looking for help with understanding these guidelines, more information, or have questions about the ALR, contact our team at BC Farm & Ranch!

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