Letter - In response to 'ALC changes good for the Kootenays' April 3, 2014 issue.
The Free Press and Nicole Obre have earned a scolding and a reminder of the basics of journalism. The so called article, "ALC changes are good news for the Kootenays", belongs on the editorial pages or on Fox news. Instead it masquerades as a new article despite presenting an absurdly biased view and no alternative opinion or rebuttal. Just reading the headline reveals the problems inherent in the rest of the article. Who is the voice of this headline? It is presented as a statement of fact and yet there is no rationale for its accuracy, presented in the article, other than quotes from the long term promoter of the new policy, Bill Bennet. This policy change is controversial, to say the least, and has many facets that good journalism could explore.
For example; the ALC has widespread public support, the changes to its structure are driven by special interests and development agendas. B.C. has a meager five per cent agricultural land which has been quickly dwindling due to encroachment by real estate development and industry. One only has to look down Dicken and Cakato Roads to see the future for our agricultural lands, carved up into acreages for large homes surrounded by fallow fields paved with sod. It is a fact that much farmland could be sold as high value real estate if it is removed from the ALR or exploited for oil and gas or mineral exploration and that would "benefit" the seller and developer but to say that it is "good" for the Kootenays is one sided and short sighted in the extreme.
The quotes from Mr. Bennett in the article present an ideological spin and misleading narrative of the government's motives for these changes. We are told it is being done for the little guy, the humble farmer, so he might "stay on his land". Or perhaps so that humble farmer might subdivide his land so his "son or daughter" might build a modest home. We are told that the new regional commissions will put the decision making process in the hands of "people from the region" wrestling it away from those "bureaucrats in Burnaby". These are comforting sound bites, delivered by The Free Press unchallenged, from the mouth of the policies biggest proponent. In reality the new commissions will be made up of people hand picked to advance this governments pro-development agenda, they will be anything but democratic despite the assertion that they will somehow "come to balanced decisions". ALR land will enter the real estate market and be sold to the highest bidder or subjected to industrial development. Its value for food production and wildlife habitat will be lost forever and the opportunity for young farmers to acquire land at a reasonable cost will disappear as well.
These changes are an attack on a public trust and the short sighted cashing in on our future food security. Farming builds community. Dismantling the ALR for profit fragments and commodifies our relationship to the land and the food it produces for us.
Bill Bennett says that the new zone two is no good for farming and that he would "have to eat hay" to eat locally. He should visit the Cranbrook or Jaffray farmers markets or come by my farm this summer to see what can come from the soil and hard work of the Kootenays.
Spruce Spring Stream Farms