VICTORIA, B.C.—An Independent member of the legislature says British Columbia must protect valuable farmland after an international company bought more than 12,000 hectares it plans to turn into forests.
Vicki Huntington, who represents the agriculture-rich Delta South riding, said Thursday that the latest purchase by British-based company Reckitt Benckiser included about 320 hectares of ranch land near Dawson Creek.
She said the land deal occurred less than one month after the Ministry of Agriculture announced, after meetings with the company, that its land-purchase policy was under review and further deals were halted.
“They’ve got to deal with this issue because it’s real,” Huntington said. “It’s significant to the production of forage for our farmers, and the ministry is just not doing its job effectively in this regard.”
She said the 320-hectare property located just west of Dawson Creek is valuable cattle-grazing land. It was part of B.C.’s agricultural land reserve.
The company’s website says it has planted seven million trees in efforts to achieve net-zero emissions from its manufacturing operations.
“We aim to have net-zero emissions from manufacturing through planting trees,” it said in a statement on its site.
“By converting land used, or previously cleared, for cultivation back to forest, we help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that would otherwise have remained there contributing to global warming.”
Huntington, who is a member of an Opposition agriculture committee, said farm land is becoming increasingly more valuable, especially with ongoing drought conditions.
She said local politicians in the Caribou and Peace River regions have expressed concerns since last April about the company’s agricultural land purchases.
Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick said his ministry does not endorse turning farms into forests and received assurances in June that Reckitt Benckiser would not buy any more agricultural land.
But he said the latest purchase in July involved a deal that was already in the works.
“In my mind, and the government’s mind, it is not appropriate for anyone to be taking good agricultural land out of production by planting forests,” Letnick said.
He said a solution is being worked out with the company, but that he could not elaborate.
Reckitt Benckiser is a manufacturing company that produces a diverse range of products including household cleaners, acne creams and hot dog condiments.