The Preservation and Development of Agricultural Land Bill has been tabled in parliament.
The bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 43990 in December 2020.
According to the explanatory summary, the proposed legislation aims to promote the preservation and sustainable development of agricultural land, establish an evaluation and classification system for agricultural land and demarcate protected agricultural land to ensure that high potential agricultural land is preserved and protected against non-agricultural uses in order to promote long term agricultural production.
Other aims include implementing a coordinated national framework, including norms and standards and authorisations for the use of agricultural land; promoting and encouraging viable farming units from a long term economic, environmental and social perspective; discouraging land use changes from agricultural to non-agricultural uses to prevent the fragmentation of the agro ecosystem and facilitating concurrent land uses on agricultural land without jeopardising long term food security.
The bill also seeks to set up a national agro eco information system with georeferenced information to support the object of the act.
The bill aims to provide:
• that the Act applies to all agricultural land within the Republic;
• principles for the management of agricultural land;
• for agricultural land evaluation and classification;
• for the preparation, purpose and content of provincial agricultural sector plans;
• for the declaration of protected agricultural areas;
• for the general objectives of agro-ecosystem management, agro-ecosystem authorisations, the listing and delisting of activities or areas within agro-ecosystems and the identification of competent authorities;
• for the establishment of committees and the appointment of technical and other advisers to advise the Minister, MECs and competent authorities;
• for a performance assessment framework;
• for the establishment and management of the national agro-eco information system;
• for appeal procedures;
• for the appointment and functions of inspectors;
• for contravention directives and the investigation and gathering of data on property;
• for the delegation of powers;
• enable the Minister to make regulations and determine norms and standards;
• for offences and penalties;
• for the amendment of the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Repeal Act, 1998 (Act No. 64 of 1998); and
• for matters connected therewith.
Cabinet approved the bill at the beginning of December 2020 for tabling in parliament.
According to the cabinet statement, the bill “proactively protects agricultural land for food production through the establishment of Protected Agricultural Areas in which high potential agricultural land will be delineated for agricultural purposes and low potential agricultural land will be permitted for non-agricultural uses”.
Cabinet also pointed out that the implementation of the proposed legislation addresses the threat to national and household food security.