[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Land grab puts bounty on fertile farmland

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Fri Apr 13 15:28:00 EDT 2007

Land grab puts bounty on fertile farmland
Peace River region building boom leads to selloff of prime agricultural 
Canadian Press

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- The rising value of B.C. agricultural land is 
decreasing the amount of available farmland.
Farm Credit Canada says B.C.'s farmland led the country with an 8.2-per-cent 
increase in value in the latter half of 2006.
The first half of the year saw a 10-per-cent increase.
But the rising prices are also placing uneven pressure on area producers. 
The farmland surrounding Fort St. John and Dawson Creek -- designated as 
class 2 -- is the most fertile of the region outside of the class 1 land in 
the Peace Valley. Land becomes less productive toward class 5.
While land closer to town is fetching a high price for residential living, 
the less-fertile rural land, which cannot be subdivided into quarter 
sections, is losing value.
"The best farmland is divided into quarter sections and is being turned into 
country estates, and we have class 5 land that's very marginal and the 
[Agricultural Land Commission] won't allow that land to be subdivided into 
quarters, when in actuality the land that should be used as the country 
estates is the poor land further out," said Larry Peterson, owner of Peace 
River Farm and Ranch Sales Ltd.
"It's the farmers that are bearing the burden."
Combined with increased costs of production, low commodity prices, last 
year's drought and the ravaging of crops by wildlife, many area producers 
have fallen on tough times.
"A lot of the farmers are just giving up farming, or they have to have 
another job to farm," Mr. Peterson said. "Very few farmers that I know are 
strictly farming for a living."
There are bright spots on the horizon for agriculture in the Peace, 
including a national interest in biofuel production, but the chairwoman of 
the Peace River Regional District worries about having the farmland 
available to capitalize on that.
"I think it is really time to be serious about the protection of agriculture 
land, and I don't think we want to waste any time because we're not making 
any more [farmland]. Are we going to wait until our farmland is gone?" Karen 
Goodings asked.
While the footprint [area of land] the oil and gas industry leaves on 
agricultural land is regulated, the amount eaten up by urbanization is an 
issue that isn't receiving enough attention, she said.
"Let's say you buy a quarter section [65 hectares] of land simply because 
you want to live out in the country and you put that home in a place where 
it makes it more difficult to actually farm around it -- that has an impact 
on agricultural land around it."
Climate change due to global warming is a further concern that could limit 
the amount of available agricultural land in the future, Ms. Goodings said. 

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