Pollinators and water use should be included in the City’s agricultural area plan, but the City might be reaching too far into farmers’ fields with some aspects of the document.
Those were some of the concerns City council highlighted in a workshop review of the draft plan on Tuesday.
The plan has been developed over the past two years with public consultation just wrapped up, said Maren Luciani, the City’s long-range planner.
Under the provisions of the Sustainable Kamloops Plan, the agricultural plan is intended to foster an economically, environmentally and socially viable agricultural sector around the city.
The plan would move the city, which historically had a larger, more robust agricultural sector, toward greater food security. ALR applications would be vetted by the City before they go before the Agricultural Land Commission.
Strategies include expanding the City’s role in planning to assure consistent policies and restrictions around land use and conflicts, Luciani said. That would entail stronger partnerships with the commission and senior governments.
Another strategy would look at succession planning and “growing new farmers,” she said. The median age for farmers is the late 50s, yet prospective farmers find it difficult to break into the business.
Coun. Marg Spina pointed out that a provincial review of the ALR is underway since boundaries were originally set without regard to arable land. She also suggested including a core statement on pollinating insects, which are threatened around the world.
Water conservation is one of the sustainability goals of the plan.
“I would like to see how we’re going to provide for agriculture and make sure we have enough water,” said Spina
Coun. Arjun Singh suggested the plan should also encourage value-added opportunities such as food processing and cold storage, which are currently lacking.
Coun. Nancy Bepple applauded the plan as a means of preserving productive land around the city, but questioned the City’s ability to recruit new farmers or encourage best agricultural practices.
“I’m concerned we’re taking on something that’s quite outside our expertise and beyond what we have traditionally done in the past,” she said. “We do business promotion, but we’re not training farmers.”
A similar concern related to increased ALR involvement.
“I wonder if we’re creating a whole new level of bureaucracy that’s going to frustrate farmers even more,” said Coun. Ken Christian.
Based on public and council input, the plan will be brought back for approval by year’s end.