B.C. extends funds for Peace-region farmers’ advocate

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A publicly-funded advocacy office for farmers in oil- and gas-rich northeastern British Columbia’s Peace region will get another year of support while long-term funding is discussed.

The province’s energy, mines and natural gas ministry said Tuesday it will put up $100,000 to support the Farmers Advocacy Office (FAO) in the region for another year, to be matched by the Peace River Regional District (PRRD).

Continuing the FAO funds will allow area landowners to "continue to receive information and support in northeast B.C. for compensation and mitigation discussions related to proposed oil and gas activities on residential land."

The office, which operates independently from government, serves to collect and disseminate information "pertaining to agriculture and land use related to oil and gas development" and is meant to help resolve "issues that arise between landowners and industry."

The FAO was first set up at Dawson Creek in January 2010 as an 18-month pilot project between the PRRD and the province’s energy and agriculture ministries.

The province had pledged $80,000 in 2012-13 to keep the FAO running during an operational audit, which it said showed the FAO model "can facilitate community engagement and positive negotiations between landowners and the oil and gas industry."

Talks between the province and PRRD will go to "define a long-term service model" for the FAO and look at long-term funding past 2013-14.

"As B.C.’s oil and gas sector continues to grow, the (FAO) will play an important part in future negotiations for proposed industry activity on residential land," Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm said in the province’s release Tuesday.

PRRD chair Karen Goodings, who farms with her husband at Cecil Lake, northeast of Fort St. John, said the district board feels the service provided through the FAO "is key to keeping the respect between the oil and gas industry and landowners."