John Horgan Premier Designate, B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader

Victoria: British Columbia’s farmland is a vital strategic resource. British Columbians understand land that produces food is equally important as land that produces oil or gas or metals. What could be more vital to every one of us than access to food?
Agriculture is also a major industry in B.C. It supports tens of thousands of jobs in every part of the province and contributes millions of dollars to our economy. Agriculture supports families, and it supports communities.
Today, thousands of hectares of food-producing land have been targeted for quick-money schemes by out-of-province investors. They are using farm fields to plant trees and then sell the carbon offsets from those trees to their international clients. This takes farmland out of food production and is a very bad deal for B.C.
But it’s a good deal for investors. Farmland is clear and flat and easily accessible. It’s very attractive if your goal is to plant a lot of trees very quickly and then cash out. Under the current law, this is legal. But planting trees on farmland creates a lot of problems.
First, in order for the owner to sell carbon credits, the trees must remain untouched for 100 years. That means the land isn’t even a working forest – it creates no new jobs and produces nothing of value for the B.C. economy or for the local community.
Second, it drives up the price of farmland. As corporations around the world look to offset their carbon emissions, B.C. farmland will be a global commodity with a price to match. We are already hearing from farmers who want to expand their food growing business but are getting out-bid for nearby fields, only to find these planted with trees by their new owners. Young people today report that the price of land is the single biggest obstacle preventing them from entering farming.
But the most serious problem is that we can’t farm for food on land that has been planted with trees. We import a lot of our food already – more than half. A quick look around the grocery store will confirm that – peas from China; grapes from Chile; spinach from Mexico; celery, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, and beans from the United States. Stories of drought affecting farming in California and pollution threatening crops in Asia are just two examples that make the issue clear.
Growing food close to home is good for our health, good for our economy, creates jobs and supports families.
For people truly interested in planting trees for the benefit of all British Columbians, I would encourage them to look at the million hectares of land that were affected by mountain pine beetle, leaving vast areas needing reforestation. There is no shortage of space for anyone who wants to plant trees to fight climate change. Forest lands are the right place to grow trees. Farmland is the right place to grow food. New Democrats have fought for British Columbia’s farmland for decades and we will continue to do so. It’s very disappointing that Christy Clark and her government doesn’t feel the same. Last year, they passed legislation making it easier to develop farmland for other uses, and now when we ask about planting trees instead of growing food the Minister doesn’t even even know that thousands of hectares has already been lost to food production because trees are planted instead.
We can do better. British Columbians need a government that stays engaged with farmers, with the forestry industry, and with all sectors of the economy. We need a government that takes real action on climate change, not just greenwashing. We need a government that understands that farmland is an essential resource for the long term, and not something to squander on a quick money scheme. I believe that we must protect the land we grow food on, for
ourselves and for our children.