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From Produce to Pot, is Canada’s Farmland Being Compromised?

Jon Brown Jon Brown, Stockhouse
1 Comment| September 17, 2019

Canada’s cannabis industry is working to roll out as much product as people can consume (supply issues notwithstanding), but have you ever thought about where this industry is growing from?

In British Columbia, some of the most prominent companies (in terms of output) have built their business on the foundation of farms once dedicated to growing food.

The largest pot producer in Canada, Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX: WEED), turned a bell-pepper farm in Aldergrove into its 275,000 square metre cannabis operation, an equivalent to nearly 176 NHL-sized hockey rinks. Delta’s Village Farms also turned to cannabis, where returns from cannabis products are expected to be 10 times as great as other crops with returns upward of 15 times the vegetable-based revenue. In partnership with medical cannabis company Emerald Health Therapeutics (TSX-V:EMH) , the facility could yield up to 75,000 kg each year.

(Village Farms facility. Image via Emerald Health Therapeutics.)

Farmers have felt their profits withering away as competition from countries like Mexico increases. They see cannabis as an attractive alternative to save their livelihoods. However, these greenhouses sit on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Some people have expressed concerns that this threatens food production. Delta’s mayor, Lois Jackson told media that she is worried about the use of designated farmland, should it take away the province's ability to grow food.

While concerns have also been raised to the Township of Langley, its mayor replied that this is outside of municipal control.

Jack Froese told the CBC that - "It's been ruled by the Agricultural Land Commission and also by the federal government and their regulations trump municipal regulations."

An Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Agriculture released its findings into this issue and put forth its ideas on restricting cannabis production in the ALR with a mind to “better protect” the land.

The Committee stated its significant concerns about cannabis’ regulation and its production in the ALR.

Their findings were made on the basis that they see federal legalization of non-medical cannabis leading to land use issues that the BC government hasn’t considered, while foreseeing impacts to the ALR that will “Likely be significant and are not yet fully understood.”

“The Committee did not seek specific comments from stakeholders and the public on cannabis: however the issue was a common and urgent concern heard throughout the engagement process,” the report reads. “The Committee notes that the Minister of Agriculture recused herself from provincial cannabis-related decisions but was committed to bringing this key ALR-related concern to the Province’s attention.”

According to Statistics Canada data, grocery prices have been trending upward over the past several years, so leaning on Mexico and the US for produce could mean spending more at the checkout.

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September 19, 2019

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