The City of Delta has begun the process of updating its agricultural plan.
The agricultural advisory committee has been reviewing the current plan, approved nine years ago, and staff are preparing a working document that will help the committee focus their discussions on key elements.
Having an overarching goal of ensuring the long-term viability of agriculture in Delta, the 2011 plan primarily focuses on land designated as agriculture in the city’s Official Community Plan as well as properties within the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve.
Coun. Alicia Guichon, who chairs the committee, told the Optimist it’s time the plan was update.
“So many things have changed since then, including but not limited to ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) changes and permitted uses in the ALR such as breweries, cannabis, changes with secondary housing, etc. We want to continue to emphasize education as an important tool within our community to help others learn about Delta’s deep farming history and its continued importance as we see more potential port expansion, loss of soil-based farms, etc.” she said.
Guichon noted there could be outdated issues needing revisiting, including possibly backyard chickens for example, while discussions and workshops are planned for potential compensation policies if farmland is taken out of the ALR, although farmers prefer no land is taken out at all.
The current agricultural plan notes that there is substantial public support for the protection and enhancement of agriculture
Should land be removed by the federal or provincial governments, it’s hoped Delta will get something back that would net benefit the farming community as a whole, at a minimum, Guichon said.
“These are very preliminary talks and we look forward to see what staff bring back through a consultant through the next year. Covid-19 has, of course, slowed this down, but it is still in the books. We want to do it right and not rush it, so it would likely take a while in entirety, but we are hopeful and looking forward to the process very much,” said Guichon.
Some of the members on the committee were part of the formulation of the last plan, which will be helpful this time around, she added.
A consultant’s report when the current plan was being formulated almost a decade ago noted Delta’s agricultural sector is unique in regard to the size of its farming.
Its commercial farms are among the largest in size in the Lower Mainland and make use of high level of land leasing in their operations, but a key concern at the time was declining profitability of agriculture as a result of economic pressures on the sector.
Some of the issues farmers wanted addressed included the preservation of farmland, traffic and moving farm equipment around, better access to irrigation water and lower water rates.
Among the other issues was a growing population “competing with farmers for farmland for rural-residential purposes, creating non-agricultural competition for farmland in its wake.”
The report also saw opportunities, noting that possibly the strongest trend that was sweeping the industry was the push toward locally-based food production.
Farmers, though, also perceived “that the public really does not appreciate the financial stress that the agricultural sector is under.”