Hundreds of letters, thousands of petitions force B.C. agriculture-bill changes

VICTORIA - Hundreds of letters and thousands of petitions have forced the B.C. government to make changes to a proposed law affecting the management of the province's farmland.

The government introduced the Agriculture Land Commission Act in the legislature in March, saying it would give farmers more options in development projects and help them grow their businesses.

The bill proposes dividing the province into two separate zones, protecting farmland in areas like Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan, but giving farmers in other areas more flexibility.

But Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says the government received many complaints and concerns, some of which focused on food security, and he's now proposing changes to the bill.

One of the changes spells out the criteria the Agricultural Land Commission must consider before making decisions on land use, while another allows the chairman of the commission to refer possible changes to a committee, if it's determined such a decision would have a substantial impact on the reserve.

NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons says he will not support the legislation, even after the amendments, and calls it the worst law he's seen in the legislature.

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