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  • Volume Eight, Number Seven: October 2003

    Greenhouse Issue Has Delta Seeing Red

    Greenhouses and how big they can be without damaging quality Delta farmland is turning into a three-way fight between greenhouse operators, the city council and the provincial government.

    Delta, which many agrologists attribute with having some of the best quality farmland in Canada, has been experiencing a spurt of growth in the number and size of commercial greenhouses, as many local operators look to increase year-round production of vegetables, such as tomatoes.

    Lois Jackson, Delta’s mayor, shares the concerns of many residents that top-quality farmland that should be used for large-scale production of cash crops, is being covered up by greenhouse expansion.

    “It makes sense to put our greenhouses on lower quality soil and keep our good soil free other things like orchards,” she said. “What we want to do is put some limits on the size of greenhouses and where they can be set up.” 

    But David Ryall, of the Greenhouse Growers Association, is threatening job loss if the bylaw goes into effect.

    “We could lose up to 2000 jobs here because of this (bylaw),” he said, adding the limiting greenhouses in the manner the bylaw calls for would compromise their ability to grow varieties of crops and would discourage foreign corporations from setting shop in the area.

    But this concern may become academic, as the BC Liberal government recently stepped into the fray and blocked the new bylaw by invoking the Farm Practices Protection Act, which was brought in by the previous NDP government.

    The act requires that municipalities get approval from the provincial government before passing laws that affect agriculture in their areas.

    “The original intent of the act was valid: to protect farmland from inappropriate development like golf courses; and to protect farmers from people moving into neighbouring subdivisions and making unreasonable demands about how agriculture should sound and smell,” says Dale Marshall, an agricultural and sustainability economist with the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.

    He says it appears the Liberals are using the act to sacrifice valuable farmland in a knee-jerk response to yet another largely unsubstantiated threat of loss of foreign corporate investment—the benefits of which may be questionable at best.

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