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John’s Perspective

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“Our imperative now lies not in how to grow this or how to market that. What’s critical is a rebirth of BC farm Leadership. In BC, only one half of one percent of the province still farms, and our provincial government spending on agriculture, by percentage of GDP, is the lowest in Canada. We need new mortgage systems to enable investment in farmland. Using the Agricultural Land Reserve to grow our own food will never happen without such enabled investment – and such investment requires leadership.”

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A FARMERS REPORT ON THE ALR:    If It Ain’t Busted – Fix it ‘Till It Is
October 20, 2010
Under ARDA
Four decades ago the Federal Government of this country developed policies and programs to improve Canadian agriculture. This work began under the auspices of the Agriculture and Rural Development Act (ARDA). ARDA’s mission was to improve competition and efficiency in Canadian agriculture. Such Keynesian goals are well documented in the book “Report Of The Federal Task Force On Agriculture In The Seventies – December 1969”(the Report was written by 5 academic economists – you can find it on the web). Canada needed to determine the extent of the geophysical resources available in the land to reach such Federal economic goals.The CLI
To meet such goals the Canada Land Inventory (CLI) was created under ARDA to do renewable resource surveys of all 10 provinces. Using air photo interpretation and 4% ground checking, generalized maps were developed for the province. Such maps were at  a scale one mile to the inch. They showed the land’s capability for; Agriculture, Forestry, Ungulates (cloven hoofed wildlife) Recreation and Waterfowl.Each Province looked after its own program. Between 1968 & 1972 my technical work was with Art Benson, the Coordinator of BC’s CLI to make the map program understandable. Our job was to develop a means to integrate map data. Provincial administrators wanted to effectively see how to collate and integrate land capability data. Overlays were made of all five sector maps in order to determine the highest and best use of our lands. This CLI data showed British Columbians how little farmland exists in BC.Getting Rid Of Small Parcels
Four years into my sojourn with the CLI I finally discovered what ARDA’s “Rural Development” meant. This shocking revelation came by way of The National Film Board’s (NFB) documentary films of their Challenge For Change Programs. The first of the series showed how land consolidation was being undertaken in the Maritime Provinces in order to “improve” agriculture there. There, work was underway to remove small farm parcels (and the farmers as well) into large and efficient agrarian blocks. Little heed was paid to the right of the owners.Getting Rid Of Small Farmers
A second film in the series was simply called “WILF”. This documentary (covertly in the narrative) pitted Alvin Hamilton, Canada’s Federal Minister of Agriculture up against a small farmer called Wilf. There, Alvin explicitly explained that Ag Canada’s new role was to impose policies right across the country to remove some 200,000 “small” farmers from the land.Agriculture In The 70s details this further as 238,000 such Canadian farmers. Those policies carried forward and have been effectively enforced right through 4 decades until today. By 1972 I quit the program in disgust, with distain for what I was helping to do to my peers. Removing families from their farms is a draconian action. I quit the program to return to the land – knowing and despite what ARDA was doing.

The following year CLI data was fundamental to the creation of BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve and Commission (the ALR & the ALC – the Commission). The Federal Government’s policy to “get rid of inefficiencies” (small farmers) went right through onto the Reserves that were made. Two Auditors Reports on the ALC – one done 15 years ago and one from this year show very well what has been done in “efficiency’s” name.

The Commission guidelines that went with ALR Orders reveal the double farm standard that came through from ARDA. The “efficient” (oft-termed bona fide) farmer was the   top of the heap. Commodity producers on industry farms were all allowed more farm rights than the local scale producer. Non factory farmers faced severe discrimination. Where farm development rights went almost unquestioned to those seen to be “the right stuff”, the rights to the “small” farmers required special application and ALC permission for normal farm development.

“Encouraging Farming” Got Lost in the Mix
The Auditor’s Reports do show us explicitly that due to a lack of provincial funding the Commission has been unable meet its mandates. The law of the Commission is to encouraging farming and preserve farmlands. Despite the thorough nature of the Auditor’s Reports there are uncounted conditions that underpin Reserves which do not come through in Auditor Reports

What Auditor Reports Do Not Cover:
First and foremost – there is no common understanding that 95% of BC is still Crown Land. There is also little if any appreciation that prior to Reserves the remaining freeholds in the province (on the non Crown 5%) were 70% owned by the farm people of BC. When most of these farms were made into Reserves – that put an end to the freeholds of the province. What was formerly freehold was now under government (Commission) Crown like control. Some 2000 farmers massed in Victoria to protest this “taking” of their freehold rights. That is very well documented in the paper; Sausage Making in British Columbia’s NDP Government: The Creation of the Land Commission Act, Andrew Petter 1985, (available from the ALC).

Over the next 3 years Four Cornerstone Acts of farm legislation; – The Agricultural Credit Act, – The Farm Income Assurance Act, – The Agricultural Land Development Act, – and, The Farm Products Industry Improvement Act, were enacted by government to compensate farmers for the billions in takings extracted from them for being put on Reserves (see Sausage Making). Over the 4 decades since their creation, all 4 of the programs associated with these Acts have been cancelled by successive governments.

Beyond the ARDA bias that favoured bona fide farmers came the restrictions over the “small” farm for farm building use. This undermined general food production for the province. Low income farmers were shunned by administrators. With farm development rights of the whole farm community lost, the rights to multi generation farm dwellings were curtailed. Subdivision of farmland to suitable lots size was forbidden. The right to register a lease on part of a farm was quashed. Investment by family members for succession was all but cancelled by the Commission’s ARDA based rule. Where the factory farm was favoured – general farm development was knocked in the head.

The ALC Abandons It’s Farmers
Next came the era of the 80s and 90s where Rural Development became known as Structural Adjustment. Under this guise the Commission delegated its job to others. The Commission had already turned the small multi generation family farm into the nuclear family farm. Despite the original axiom of the Commission that touted – no other authority but the ALC ruled farmland – (as always) BC Assessment’s authority still  deemed who farmers were. Assessment too favoured factory farming. Assessors declassed and split classed nuclear farms. They arbitrarily raised the threshold of who farmers were – 3 times in the last 15 years.

BC Assessment Makes Pulp Of Food Land.
By 1993 the Assessment Commissioner also recognized forestry with pulp farm – farm status. This put even the factory farmer into stiff competition with foreign and trans-national giants to compete for costly farmland. By putting farmland back into trees it’s gone for generations from real food production.

Environment Stops Food Use Of ALR Lands
Under the administration of the Ministry of Environment – where some 16% of BC had then gone to parks, there – ALR parklands were taken from farmers. Not only was farming prevented in Parks – new habitat rules from Environment began to prevail which made the ALR’s highest capability undeveloped wetlands (Metchosen and Cowichan soils) off limits for farming. Such Ecological Goods and Services the farmer provided brought no compensation at all to the farmer.

Farm Rule Goes To Town
Next came the ultimate kick in the guts to the dupes who had paid so dearly for their stewardship of “provincial interest”. The Commission – in 2002 delegated authority over ALR farmland to the local and regional governments of the province. Now tax seeking urbans rule over the farm. This encourages estate development of our precious foodlands as hopefuls from town now flock to the country. This drives foodland prices right through the roof. As bedroom communities spread over farmlands – farmers are now put on trial – just for farming as they should on the ALR. Here non farm users of the ALR charge them with the crime of growing their food.

What Can Be Done To Fix Up The Fix
Both Auditors report that government should pay the Commission to work as it should. The “encourage farming” mandate of the Commission’s not met as funding from Cabinet is grossly insufficient.

The Commission’s double standard for farmers must stop. The Canadian Charter enshrines all provincial farmers with equal rights of Association and Vocation. Big or small these rights must prevail. Over the past 4 decades the farm discrimination inherent from ARDA – including it’s double standard, has removed the 200,000 from Canada’s farmlands. Farmers don’t survive this one sided game.

Cross Jurisdiction now rules the farm. The ALC’s mandate that none but a farm use shall occur on food lands has been abrogated. Assessment rule – Forest Industry Farm Status – prevention of ALR use in our Parks, Recreation and Wetlands – and the gentrification of farmland must stop. Particularly when there’s no compensation to the farm population for the Ecological Goods and Services they’ve provided for the stewardship and protection of society’s foodlands. It’s time for compensation for what that’s cost farmers.

The Commission itself must “encourage farming”. Investment in farming can only exist if “The Registering Lease By Explanatory Plan” is returned to the books to enable investment in agricultural development. Assessment’s phony 3 year farm lease (unregisterable as it is) prevents such farm investment for the present and future.

With the right to subdivide to appropriate farm size and a return of a Registered Lease to the books then secure land tenures can exist on farmland and investment can then come back into farming. Landschaft systems & Slow Money developments show very well how investment for food growth can return to BC.

The Forest Industry and the Island’s E&N Railway properties comprise vast tracts of BC’s food land (more than 23% of Vancouver Island). Some is now slated for country estates. The farmlands of such holdings – by law, are deemed by Commission for no other use but agrarian homesteads. Corporate profiteers must pay for abuse of the ALR lands which are legislated exclusively for farming.

The Commission’s “encourage farming” mandate can also be employed to foster the development of Community Farmland Trusts. Registered lease tenures afford land to new farmers. Such tenures return of more food to BC. Eighty percent of the 48% of what we are reported to grow is now grown only for export. That leaves us dependant on food from afar. We grow less than 5% of what our citizens consume.

Environment’s ALRs can become Class C parks. Such ALR properties – if then developed as community (park) farmland trusts can then be managed to meet community needs. This can lead to the creation of affordable tenures which can in turn be let to new farmers. With farmers as stewards of ALR parks – parklands can pay for themselves (where Environment can’t steward it’s parklands today).  It’s reported that there is only one Environment employee for each 7 of BC’s parks. Tenured farm leases would create steward options for the management of BC’s unmanaged parks. Associated Lease fees can then be applied to complement Environment’s management plans.

Assessment’s farm leases give farm status loopholes for farm tax concessions to gated estates. These fake farm tax leases prevent farm investment by both farmers and eaters for increasing food growth. Where the ALR’s become bedroom communities Martini Farmers (as Valley farmers report) are the gentry that ride on the back of the farmer. By securing farm status with no food production sedants from town, are abusing system. Now the farmer’s new neighbour can put him on trial for how he grows food for this high end consumer.

The way things sit now – ALRs are a farce. The ALR has become little more than an unendurable mess of cross jurisdiction and impossibly infernal, tangled red tape. With the delegata potestas non potest delagari that became the Commission 2002 mandate delegation and abrogation has cost far too much. Since ARDA’s reductionist policies took hold we’ve lost more than farmers, we’ve lost food production. In the process we’ve created unendurable family strife and prevented financial investment in farms. Commission Act law is right there to be seen. It’s enshrined on the books and it calls for an end, to this cross jurisdiction and farmer constraint that’s ending food use of our ALR lands.

It’s time to return the Constitutional rights of Association and Vocation to ALL BC’s farmers – not just to SOME factory farm producers.

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IT’S TIME TO MEND FARMER FENCES
Barn Side July 2010 (published in Country Life BC)

How farming has changed in the last 50 years is what I’m now trying to shed light on. Why was I chastened by Dennis Lapierre, the Vice President of the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) in last month’s Country Life? See “Wilcox taken to task over stable funding views” pg 8. Dennis is focused on “change”. That’s why that need to discuss “change” comes to mind. There in a letter I was “corrected” for my Barn Side views on agrarian culture. Please see; “Stable funding proposal unfair to community ag” in the May edition for what was “corrected”.

My original title to that month’s Barn Side was “Some farmers are asking to pay extra taxes”. That was obviously a real stupid title. Thus the editor’s good reasons for fixing that up. However – the original title does call for attention. It’s a very good example of how bad farming’s got. Can you see an old farmer ask to pay extra taxes?

For another example of how farming has changed for the worse also see the story on pg 11 of May’s paper. There, under the head “Martini farmers” threaten Fraser Valley agriculture” we see several accounts of the many new threats that undermine the agrarian economy of today.

To top that off however there’s another story too. It’s on pg 23 of that same May paper. It’s under the heading “Thomson delivers somber message to young farmers”. There we find the most profound example of the farmer vs farmer fight of them all. For that – check out the quote “many of the (Young) farmers in the room, who look at agriculture from a commercial perspective, expressed concerns about the increased emphasis on “community farming”. It’s very dangerous for real farmers, one (young farmer) said – “Residents feel they own agriculture, but don’t contribute to it.”

One of the real values of saving Country Life is that older papers give you insight on what’s wrong. We need that information to fix the mess up.

One of the prime concerns that I now have is how we can get beyond the rift that spawned this 60s big – little fight. This split between farmers was bred 5 decades ago just when I got out of farm school. I’ve watched it develop and been part of the fight for more than the past 50 years.

As noted above, that – plus the chastening I got from BCAC, plus what we see from the quote the young farmer made about how dangerous to commodity people we resurgent farmers are, does highlight what’s wrong in farming today.

The so called “economic” policies that were brought to bear on farmers by the federal agents of this country some 5 decades back are what’s given rise to this big farmer fight.

Fifty years ago – big or small, all farmers supported one another in a healthy agrarian community way. New or small farmers weren’t shunned at all. Big producers didn’t throw babies out with bath water. No – the whole farm community hung together like glue. Some even helped successional and new entrants get off on land to a good farming start. We always came to the aid of a neighbour in need.

Everyone in my farm culture of that time was born to the country and agrarian life. There were none in the country who came from afar. For the most part there was such unity amongst farmers that the only concern wasn’t rifts amongst farmers. In the country back then it was more the city slicker country bumpkin fight that plagued any who were not from town. That was a fight fueled by abusive pricing and the tactics that the farmer encountered in town for the hard earned staples all farmers then created.

“City slicker” was common banter back then in relation to how the person beyond the farm gate was forever trying to advantage himself – at the expense of the hard working farm country person. Martini farmers like those cited above were not yet a factor the farmer had to face. Those absent from farming still grubbed it out (though not the soil) down there in town having left the farm to “better” themselves. The rift between the farmer and the slicker was common while the “good life” clock puncher still lived in town.

Though many had left the farm for the city – even then, there was still a farm population. Ten to fifteen percent of Canadians still farmed. The seasonal farm workers were the young country folk. There was thus no need to bring in extra-nationals to do the common work of producing our food. The community itself supplied most of our needs. It was not like today where only a half of 1% of our population still farm and there is no longer a community to help grow our food. Almost everyone in the country was just there to farm.

Unlike today there was no ALR. No agent managed farmscape left open to people not to do farming when moving from the town. Without being forced to – farmers wouldn’t sell land. Today that’s all changed due to wrong headed edicts that agents created to get rid of farmers. The farmscape’s now changed to large block real estate despite the intent of the ALR. Today – “martini farmers” by the deckload abound.

Not only do the big or small farmers of today have what once was the city slicker knocking at their doors as they now quit town to return to the country. This time the impact is worse than before as the townies return to take back and settle what’s supposed to farmland. By settling as  sedants on what was to be farmland they commodify property beyond reach of the farmer. Some bitch about farming and take farmers to court only for the way they try to grow local food!

The only “from away” family in our country setting who had settled as the neighbour to the farmer next door would have been shunned by all in the country had they ever bitched about how  farming was done. The term “farm nuisance” wasn’t invented yet. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you was as common as muck

While the rift between farmer and slicker was common at least that rift hadn’t moved out of town. In that day there was no little big farmer fight which agents created pushing farmers around. That’s the division we now need to fix. It’s time to mend fences between the big and the small. To do that we could even share stable funding. See “John’s Perspective” on our new farm website which offers detail of how that could be done through Farm Registration as in some other places.

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The Mad Farmer Wonders – What Ever Happened To Growing Our Food?
Barn Side.   June 2010, published in Country Life BC

 

I’m the mad farmer and I’m angry. Angry as I must fight to grow food. That’s what the bureaucrats force me to do.

Although I still find joy in farming here at Duck Creek I am angry at the next to total lack of respect our National and BC Administrations show for the citizens of this country. And it’s all about food. It’s all about food because it starts with the farmer. The farmer’s the foundation of our home economics. Never mind the GDP, search Physiocrat for the base of true economics.

When successive governments continue to be captured by the short sighted purveyors of the mercantile class, ordinary people are turned into serfs. They are no longer seen as the responsible citizens democracy demands. Instead, they’re the ciphers of government control.

A good example of this is that since 1867 when this nation was founded, only six generations have tried to grow food. During that same time period, the six farmers of those generations have seen 60 Ag Ministers fuddle and go. What have the Ministers done? In BC alone they’ve imposed 60 legislative Acts to rule over farmers and how they must work. What has this done? It’s got rid of farmers as well as our food. Here in BC only one half of one percent of the people now farm. We now import up to 95% of the food that we need. We’re mostly dependant on food from afar.

Worse yet is the example we now see from New Brunswick. There, reports show that a decade ago where more than 10,000 farmers grew food on the land, today less than 900 farmers still farm the land!

We Need To Replace All The Farmers We Lost

We’ve tried to help the community with that. Ministry staff cites our small farm as a good example of biodiversity in agriculture. What we have done at Duck Creek since moving our farm from Woodslee to the Coast 20 years ago is turn an uninhabited, overgrazed, weed infested pasture and a defiled creek into a successful Conservation Partner market garden farm. Despite government interference the farm now pays for itself every year.

Five acres of our government controlled Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) holding is forest, three acres is a riparian set aside zone of enhanced salmon, cutthroat and wildlife habitat. Beyond that we graze sheep on the meadows and grow market garden produce on several small plots.

Using Stats Can data – last year we found that we fed 15 people (five families) per acre of naturally farmed land. We mentored two students who learn farming by doing. Such family farm teamwork brought us 10 times the amount that BC Assessment demands of the farmer to prove that he’s really still farming the land.

Despite gaining 40% of our family farm income from this farm’s production there’s still something very wrong with this picture.

What’s wrong? It’s taken the past 20 years of infernal fighting with draconian reductionist government agents – just to build up this farm to continue our vocation. What are we fighting? We’re constantly fighting the cross jurisdictional, overarching imposition of onerous government farm regulation. That’s what’s driving most farmers from the land.

Just four decades ago the farmscape was alive with food growing people. Today – because of wrong headed federal & provincial control which started way back in the 70s – the land is now peopled by denizens from town.

To see how the Federal Government’s Agriculture and Rural Development Act of the late 60s imposed policy to systematically remove farmers from the land with what was called “Rural Development” in the 60s & 70s then “Structural Adjustment” from the 80s onward, please see the Federal task force report; Canadian Agriculture in the Seventies (1969) – and the National Film Board Challenge For Change Documentary WILF – A Study in Rural Relocation (1969). ”Get Big or Get Out” was the name of the game.

The people who replace the farmers on the land not only jack up the prices of precious foodland -they then bitch and complain about how must farmers work to meet all the needs of government control. What does the government do about this? Well – first of all they don’t tax these people for inflating farm prices to take over foodland. No – on the contrary, this province makes it easy for sedentary settlers to scuttle the farmer. Only half rural taxes are levied to the denizens who resides in splendor on their monster estates. No taxes are charged to the owner at all if he issues Assessment’s “farm lease” to a farmer. To pay no taxes – just lease native hay! We’re subsidizing people to overtake farms!

How will the government correct this mistake? Well – they’ll fix it right up with some more legislation. Now it’s Farm Registration that’s on the horizon. A Farm Registration Act is now in the works here in BC. Others in Canada where Farm Registration already exists say it’s an agenda of government for every province in the country to impose Farm Registration for food safety purposes and for tracking all farmers through agent control. By licensing people to farm every year they’ll harness the farmer to fix up their mess. All farmers will be programmed for government work.

What a great deal! Just download your problems. Dump them on farmers! With Farm Registration the farmer is not only required to apply for a license to farm every year, he’ll also be required to administer the programs no longer afforded by government. He’ll be ordained to use his farm organization to lobby the government to undo past years of Ministry debacle. The farmer himself will be excise taxed for a license to farm to undo the mess.

If there’s still a buck left in farming today then it’s sure to be passed from those farm working hands with delagata potestas non potest delagari. Wikipedia will show how abrogation of the  need to do their own work they’ll capture the farmer in this devious game.

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Food Safety Issues in US and Canada

March 25, 2009

THE MAD FARMER (John) REMEMBERS:

•First – five decades ago food safety provoked the feds to create supply management and the exclusion of mixed farming with dairy, All the cows in my township ended up in one barn. poultry soon followed.

•Next – Alvin Hamilton, Fed Minister of Ag in the 60s set up the Agriculture and Rural Development Act (ARDA) with policies to get rid of 200,000 inefficient CDN (community ag) farmers (see the NFB Challenge For Change documentary WILF for how he did that).

•Next – in the 70s in BC; using federal /provincial Canada Land Inventory (ARDA) resource data, the Ag Land Commission and the Reserve (the ALR) were created and put laws in place which took property use rights away from BCs farm families and essentially prevented continuity of the traditional multigenerational habitation and succession on BCs community ag scale farms.

•Next – in the 90s BC Assessment began split classing ALR farms. This removed my step son from our farm but we fought the split classing and succeeded in 98 in putting a stop to “most”  split classing of the ALR.

•Next – in 1993 Glen Clark (as BC Finance Minister) using BC Assessment rules gave transnational forestry corporations farm status for pulp plantation use of the ALR. That became  Farmer vs Pulp Mill in competition for farmland.

•Next – in the late 90s Federal trade related provincial meat laws were imposed on BC which got rid of most local scale livestock  processors and producers.

•Next – in 2002 the Land Commission delegated decision making powers (and the interpretation of law) to local governments which then allowed town folk to regulate and prevent farmers from making farm and non farm uses of the ALR (which the Commission allowed).

•Next – BC Assessment returned to split classing of farms in Saanich (a program they intended to extend province wide). As a result of that a Provincial Assessment Review is now underway.

 

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