If you’ve not been following the developing story, Persephone in Gibsons BC and Crannóg Ales Sorrento BC are two breweries based on Agricultural Land Commission (ALR) plots where they grow their own hops, but neither company is able to produce enough grain to meet the 50% requirement imposed by the province.
Persephone applied for a non-farm use exemption from the ALR, but were turned down and given two years to comply with the ruling. However, they are hoping instead to appeal the decision and lobby the ALR change the rules to something similar to those that apply to wineries and cideries. This change would mean that breweries growing at least 50% of any ingredient used in their beer, or using ingredients grown on other B.C. farms, can operate on ALR plots.
They recently ran a petition to get a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, which was finally granted; however, in a message to supporters posted on Facebook, it looks like they didn’t walk away with the result they were hoping for.
Check out the message below:
Greetings Beer-farming and ALR Supporters,
We wanted to update you to let you know that thanks to your support we were able to get a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture. Rebecca from Crannóg, Ken from the Craft Brewers Guild and I (Brian at Persephone) were on a call with the Minister, his Deputy and Assistant Deputy Ministers. Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed with their offering.
The key points the Minister prefaced the call with included:
- He reminded us that they’d consulted prior to making changes to the ALR – which, by the way, didn’t include either Crannog or Persephone.
- That they intentionally took a cautious approach in including breweries in the ALR.
- That he would not be able to speak to the ALC’s decisions on either their interpretation of the Regulations nor their decision regarding the rejection of Persephone’s Non Farm Use Application.
- That there was absolutely nothing he could or would do before the election on May 9th, including instructions to staff who would stay at their positions regardless of election results.
He then invited our questions and discussion. We asked him these key questions:
• Given both the widespread support the public is showing and that obviously the Regs were not working for two of the most progressive beer farms anywhere, would he commit to changing the Regulations after the election?
Minister Letnick’s response was to say that he would be open minded and willing to consult key stakeholders such as the BC Ag Council, Local Government through UBCM and the ALC. When pressed, he said he’d consult with us actual beer farmers.
- Would the Liberal Party be including any statement about breweries on the ALR in their platform for the election?
His response was that he couldn’t commit his party to that platform but that, if elected, he would be open minded and consult key stakeholders…
- What, if anything, should we report back to our supporters?
He suggested we tell you that “we had a good discussion” (his words, not mine) and that (hold your breath), he’ll, if elected and appointed to the same post, have an open mind. He did say that his office would be responding in writing to our original Open Letter with some statement to the effect of his open mind.
This non-committal rhetoric does nothing to advance the provincial agricultural sector, add any jobs, spending or investment dollars to our communities nor address the dire situation faced by both Crannog and Persephone.
So, what’s next? We will settle in for a long road to get things changed.
We are going to try to work with the bodies that he listens to including the ALC, UBCM and BC Ag Council. And, we’ll be trying to bring up this issue many times over during the election.
Now, I suspect, you’re wondering how you can help – because you are awesome! Here are a few actions you could take on behalf of beer farmers and small business across the province:
A. Bring it up with the MLA candidates in your riding. Ask them directly, on social media, at all-candidates forums and anywhere else you see the opportunity. To date, the Liberal Government has said it wants to support farmers and small businesses so why wouldn’t they change these Regs. The attached article shows SOME candidates are taking this seriously.
B. Keep writing to any or all of the Minister (AGR.Minister@gov.bc.ca), the NDP Ag Critic Lana Popham (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Premier (Premier@gov.bc.ca), Minister of Small Business (coralee.oakes.MLA@leg.bc.ca) plus your local MLAs.
C. Get your local municipality or regional district to bring the issue up to the UBCM, preferably using the changes to the regulations outlined in our petition. You can make a presentation to your regional district or municipality fairly easily in rural BC, just by asking to be on the agenda of their next meeting.
D. Local Chambers of Commerce are also being supportive, so if you belong to a Chamber, ask them to also bring this to their provincial body. We can help you with language or a submission if you like. None of these government and non-governmental agencies will be electioneering, so more can be done with them right away.
E. Host or help us put on events in your community to draw attention to this. If you own a pub or restaurant or farm, maybe you’d like to host a long table dinner, etc. Get people aware of the issue and discussing why or why not these changes should come about. Agriculture is everyone’s issue so let’s get everyone involved. The first such event is going to take place at the Cascade Room (http://www.thecascade.ca/) on March 30th, come join us! And, if you need beer to get the conversation going, give us a call, we’ll help you out.
F. Keep passing this petition around and get signors onboard. We are over 3100 now, imagine if we pushed up over 10,000 by the time the election arrived. I think the electors will need to do more than have an open mind with that kind of critical mass. https://www.change.org/p/minister-of-ag-update-the-alr-to-a…
G. Show your local farmers some love. Farmers work hard and deserve our support over and over. Buy their products, ask them how else we can help them, eat and invest local.
The momentum we have built to-date got us a meeting with the decision maker. Unfortunately, that meeting came too late to do something before the election. That could take the wind out of our sails OR it could fuel our campaign through and long after the election.
We aren’t looking for open minds, we are looking for changes that benefit our farmland, small businesses, and communities. Let’s keep this going!
With much love and appreciation,
Brian Smith and Rebecca Kneen