Montreal, April 14, 2022 - Équiterre is concerned about the proposed rezoning of farmland in Bécancour. Though there will be financial compensation, the fact that the farmland is being rezoned to make way for the production of batteries for light duty trucks is worrisome.
In Bécancour, the industrial and port zone strangely includes agricultural land. And it is in this zone that companies intend to produce batteries for Cadillac and Hummer type light-duty trucks, large vehicles for which the economic, health and safety concerns have recently been documented by Équiterre.
"The government must be able to support electrification efforts without cutting into our agricultural production capacity. Unfortunately, history seems to repeat itself and there always seems to be a new reason to justify farmland rezoning," says Colleen Thorpe, Équiterre’s Executive Director.
"The government must consider the impact of this decision and previous ones on our food autonomy. We must stop the erosion of our agricultural heritage," she adds.
There must be transparency and efforts to avoid agricultural rezoning
Équiterre reiterates that for requests of exclusion from agricultural zones, the principle of avoidance (avoiding agricultural rezoning by all possible means) must be prioritized. The Act respecting the preservation of agricultural land and agricultural activities was adopted with the goal of protecting this collective heritage, but the pressure on agricultural land has greatly increased in recent years and there is a need for a new strategy.
Équiterre is also demanding better supervision of the methods for calculating agricultural land compensation. There should be a consultation process and clear regulations. This calculation should also be based on the value of an equivalent area in an industrial zone, on the revenues generated by future use, and it must take into account the increase in value of uncontaminated agricultural land.
"We must have the courage to protect what needs to be protected, to develop only where appropriate, and to make it clear that farmland is invaluable. We need to make our living environments more dense," says Carole-Anne Lapierre, Agriculture and Food Systems Analyst at Équiterre.
Healthy food autonomy and land use
The latest IPCC report is clear on the need to transform our food systems and optimize our use of resources to address the climate crisis. Food autonomy, which has been prioritized by the Quebec government, must meet the objectives of providing healthy, nutritious and diversified food locally to the entire population, while relying on sustainable agricultural practices that respect the environment. The availability of a maximum amount of cultivable agricultural land is fundamental to achieving this goal. Only 2% of Quebec's territory is cultivable agricultural land.
Équiterre is anxiously awaiting Quebec’s new national policy on architecture and land use planning. "We hope that it will put the production and purchase of local Quebec food at the heart of its planning priorities. To do this, we must give ourselves the means to achieve our goals for food autonomy by protecting our strategic agricultural land," concludes Colleen Thorpe.