ALR 101

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created by the Province of British Columbia forty years ago – with the passage of the Land Commission Act in 1973 – to protect 4.5-million hectares of arable land for food production purposes. The ALR was considered essential as thousands of hectares of the best farm land was being lost annually to real-estate subdivisions and other industural and commercial purposes – in a mountainous province where only 5% of the landbase for suitable for food production.

Since the creation of the ALR, land owners wishing to alter private land or put it into use for non-agricultural purposes must seek approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an arms-length public agency entrusted with a mandate of agriculture.

Today, in the face of climate change, rising energy costs and growing awareness of the public health, social, and environmental benefits of local food production and consumption, the ALR and ALC are more important than ever.



Food Security

Percentage of BC’s land base made up by agricultural land: less than 5%

Percentage of BC’s food requirements provided by BC agriculture: over 50%

Why the ALR is Important

Year the Agricultural Land Reserve was established: 1973

Number of hectares of agricultural land being lost in BC annually before 1973: 6000

Average number of hectares of agricultural land excluded from the ALR each year since 1973: 616

Number of hectares of agricultural land excluded from the ALR between 1973 and 2012: 133,000

Number of hectares of agricultural land included in the ALR between 1973 and 2012: 176,000 (most being in the northern 2/3 of BC)

Total number of hectares in the ALR in 1973 and today: just over 4.6 million

Ratio of prime agricultural land (CL1 1-3) land included between 1973 and 2014, to prime agricultural land excluded: 1:3 (quality of ALR land has declined)

Percentage of ALR land the provincial government wants to continue protecting with the current regime (Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, southern Vancouver Island): 11%

ALR Makes Farmland More Affordable to Farmers

Percentage increase in farmland values in BC in last five years (according to Farm Credit Canada’s Farmland Values report): 5%

Percentage increase in farmland values in same time period for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario respectively: 38%, 80%, 60%, 71%

Percentage increase in farmland values for Canada as a whole in the same time period: 63%

Percentage of exclusion applications to the ALC (to take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve) which are from property owners who are not farmers: over 90%

Percentage decrease in the number of census farms in BC, according to the 2011 agriculture census: 0.4%

National average decrease of census farms: 10.3%

Contributions to BC’s economy

Approximate number of farms and ranches in BC: 20,000

Percentage of BC’s farms and ranches that are family-owned and operated: 98%

Number of commodities produced by BC’s agriculture sector: over 200

Number of jobs in BC’s agriculture, fisheries and processing sectors in 2012: 62,000

Annual revenue in that sector: $11.7 billion

Farm cash receipts generated annually in BC by agriculture: $2.4 billion

Percentage growth in farm receipts from crops in 2012: 8%

Percentage growth in livestock sector in 2012: 7%

Percentage growth in direct sales to consumers between 2006 and 2012: 147%

Vancouver Island

Percentage of Vancouver Island’s food needs produced by Island growers 50 years ago: 85%

Percentage of Vancouver Island’s food needs produced by Island growers today: 10%

Estimated number of hours’ worth of food on Vancouver Island should the food supply chain to the Island be cut off for any reason, such as an earthquake: 72 hours

British Columbians’ Views of the ALR

Number of British Columbians who believe it is “important that BC produces enough food so we don’t have to depend on imports from other places” (according to 2008 Ipsos Reid Poll): 91%

Percentage of Ipsos Reid Poll respondents who support the ALR and the policy of preserving farmland: 95%

Percentage of Ipsos Reid Poll respondents who said there are no acceptable reasons to remove land from the ALR: 61%


Other Benefits of the ALR include:

  • Low taxes for agricultural lands;
  • Ground water recharge lands;
  • Migratory bird habitat;
  • Local bird habitat;
  • Habitat for amphibians in streams and ponds;
  • Fish habitat in streams;
  • Old fields with significant habitat for insects – most are beneficial;
  • Habitat for pollinating species bumble bees and honeybees in hedgerows and old fields;
  • Second growth forest patches for raptors and owls for pest control;
  • Areas of groundwater discharge, springs and seepage zones for irrigation catchment;
  • Carbon sequestration;
  • Areas for community composting and manure placements;
  • A feeling of security, beauty and community well being;

All of this is lost or severely compromised when we pave over and develop agricultural land.