The article dated Jan. 31 regarding the disbanding of the Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC), is inaccurate.
I am speaking as a Central Saanich councillor and the liaison to the Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission (PAAC). The article both questioned why the AAC was disbanded but also council’s commitment to agriculture.
The AAC was one of a few committees that council disbanded. Firstly, council wanted to focus and best use staff’s resources. Many of the members of the AAC also sat on PAAC. The same issues were being discussed by both committees and the work was being duplicated.
The farming community in Central Saanich is small and close knit, with some of the larger farms being active on a significant portion of Central Saanich. Several of these members were active in discussions that could be seen as producing recommendations that could potentially benefit their own farms.
Moving items to PAAC instead helps reduce the risk of perceived conflict of interest, allows us to take advantage of both regional and provincial expertise, and avoids duplication of work, so that we can more effectively use our limited resources.
On the second point, Central Saanich council is very aware of the importance of agriculture and dedicates much of council and staff resources to promoting and encouraging farming, and protecting farmland.
Sixty per cent of Central Saanich is in the Agricultural Land Reserve and approximately another 20 per cent is rural with agriculture as a primary permitted use.
Every year I have been on council since being elected in 1996, I have met with both the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and the minster of agriculture to promote the needs of farmers in Central Saanich.
Central Saanich is a leader in agricultural advocacy not only in the region, but also in the province. In September, council met separately with both the minister of agriculture and the ALC on behalf of actual individual farms ranging in issues from food trucks all the way to farm worker accommodation.
Central Saanich introduced a number of policies that the Ministry of Agriculture adopted, such as limiting the size of homes on farmland to prevent the construction of monster mansions, improving access to farm worker housing, and prohibiting building of new concrete floored facilities on prime farmland for the purpose of growing cannabis.
Quick and early adoption by the Ministry of Agriculture saved a minimum of 30 hectares of prime Central Saanich farmland from being entombed under concrete.
Coun. Christopher Graham