Agricultural Land Reserve

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a provincial designation in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. Farming is encouraged and non-agricultural uses are restricted. The ALR protects approximately 4.6 million hectares of agriculturally suitable land across British Columbia.

Agricultural Land Commission

The provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is an independent administrative tribunal dedicated to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.

The purposes of the ALC, as set out in Section 6 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act are:

 6 (1) The following are the purposes of the commission:

(a) to preserve the agricultural land reserve;

(b) to encourage farming of land within the agricultural land reserve in collaboration with other communities of interest;

(c) to encourage local governments, first nations, the government and its agents to enable and accommodate farm use of land within the agricultural land reserve and uses compatible with agriculture in their plans, bylaws and policies.

6(2) The commission, to fulfill its purposes under subsection (1), must give priority to protecting and enhancing all of the following in exercising its powers and performing its duties under this Act:

(a) the size, integrity and continuity of the land base of the agricultural land reserve;

(b) the use of the agricultural land reserve for farm use

Deputy Minister Oil and Gas Task Force

Under Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham’s mandate commitment to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an independent advisory committee recommended a Deputy Minister Task Force be formed to address issues related to oil and gas exploration and agricultural interests in B.C.’s northeastern regions.

Revitalization of the Agricultural Land Reserve

Over the past two years, the Ministry of Agriculture has worked to revitalize the ALR and the ALC with input from stakeholders, farmers, ranchers, and the general public.

​Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham’s mandate letter commitment was to Revitalize the ALR and ALC. To deliver on this important commitment, in January 2018 the minister established an independent revitalization advisory committee for revitalizing the ALR and ALC to provide the Province with strategic advice and policy guidance.

Another engagement process was undertaken from September 19 – November 15, 2019 where the following topics were discussed:

  • Support farmers and ranchers in the ALR to expand and diversify their business;
  • Help new or young farmers become established on the land and in business; and,
  • Ensure there is flexibility for residential options while prioritizing agriculture in the ALR.

The input received during public consultations is being used to prioritize policy work that addresses these challenges.

The outcomes of this consultation process has been published in a “What We Heard” report (PDF, 350 KB).

New ALR residential options

New rules, effective December 31, 2021 will allow property owners in the Agricultural Land Reserve increased housing flexibility, helping both farmers and non-farmers support their families and businesses in their communities.

Options for an additional small secondary home have been added to regulations, allowing farmers and ALR landowners to have both a principal residence and small secondary residence on their property with a streamlined approval process. Only permissions from local government or First Nation government will be required and there will be no application to the Agricultural Land Commission. Filing a Notice of Intent for Soil/Fill use with the commission will continue to be required.

The additional residence can be used for anything from housing extended family to an agritourism accommodation, to housing for farm labour, to a rental property for supplemental income. There is no longer a requirement that additional residences must be used by the landowner or immediate family members.

Examples of flexible housing options permitted under the regulation include:

  • garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites;
  • accommodation above an existing building; and
  • manufactured homes

The changes respond to the feedback received in regional engagement sessions and in response to the ministry’s policy intentions paper where ALR landowners made it clear they wanted this type of residential flexibility.

The Order in Council (PDF, 719 KB) detailing the new residential flexibility options is here.  This guidance document (PDF, 320 KB) contains additional information about the recent changes.

Grandfathering period

The new residential flexibility policy does not come into effect on December 31, 2021. This means that ALR landowners have until this date to obtain permits for a manufactured home 9 m in width for immediate family from their local government or First Nation government.