News

Put farmland first to preserve province’s productivity (2013)

By Mark Reusser, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Only 5% of Ontario’s land base is suitable for agriculture. And since we have no way to make more soil, we need to hold on to all the productive land and soil we have.

As farmers, we know the importance of using our land for the greatest potential – with technology and conservation tillage practices to deliver the highest yields with the lowest impact. We take our responsibility seriously to provide safe and healthy food for those in our community and beyond.  And if the supply of available, productive agricultural land continues to dwindle, everyone will suffer.

Every day, prime agricultural land is lost to non-agricultural uses like housing and commercial developments and aggregate extraction. Statistics Canada reports illustrate this very clearly. In the five-year period between 2006 and 2011, nearly 260,000 hectares of farmland was lost. Whatever the reason, Ontario cannot sustain this level of land loss and continue producing enough food, fibre and fuel.

And if losing farmland to development, urban sprawl and encroachment wasn’t bad enough, our growing population is putting increasing pressure on farmers to produce more on less land. Based on the Ministry of Finance’s projections, Ontario’s population will grow from 13.5 million in 2012 to 17.4 million in 2036. That’s nearly 30% more people in 24 years. Feeding our own province on an ever diminishing supply of productive farmland is going to be tough. And we can’t forget the role Ontario farmers play in feeding our growing world population. With more mouths to feed and house and clothe, the value of preserving productive farmland should be rising in step with the population.

Ontario farmers have a keen interest in ensuring public policy does not jeopardize or destroy our most valuable resource – the land. We must have the assurance that neither urban expansion nor the presence of aggregates on or adjacent to our farms will prevent agricultural production. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is demanding the provincial definition of prime agricultural land be expanded to include Canada Land Inventory Class 4 soils, along with Class 1, 2 and 3 soils. The OFA is also advocating that aggregate extraction be prohibited from Canada Land Inventory Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 soils and specialty crop lands.

OFA expects the Ontario government will be reviewing existing land conservation strategies of the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation and Greenbelt plans in 2015. We are already preparing for this review by developing recommendations to these plans that will ensure the long-term protection of prime agricultural lands for farming.

The OFA believes farmland preservation is the number one issue affecting the sustainability of our industry. So when Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food Kathleen Wynne challenged our industry to double our annual growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by 2020, we have a challenge back. Farmland is a non-renewable natural resource. In fact, it is a strategic resource. Make sure you are preserving the farmland we need to continue driving Ontario’s growth potential.

For more information contact:

Mark Wales
President
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-773-6706

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883



Comments

Paul Tremblay says on December 16, 2013 at 4:54 PM

I find it interesting that Kathleen is challenging our industry to double our growth rate and create more jobs. I am trying to double my farmable land by removing a woodlot that is deemed a wetland by the MNR. In my case, if this is truly a wetland, it is marginal at best. The MNR which ultimately report into Kathleen as premier seem to be more interested in doubling our wetland. I think they should actually be trying to help/encourage us to create more farmable land (and jobs). Given the amount of prime farmland in my area that is disappearing every month with more to come via the 407, the MNR needs some new marching orders so they can be on the same page as Kathleen and the ministry of agriculture. At this point it seems to me that the MNR trumps Agriculture. Maybe they should be merged together?


Laurie says on December 16, 2013 at 5:16 PM

I wish you would clue in the county officials who are charging people under their illegal tree cutting bylaws preventing farmers the right to turn some of their lands from scrub into nice productive farmland


Mary Delaney says on December 16, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Hallelujah! These words are music to our ears out here in North Pickering where we have been fighting for 41 years to have the last best biggest tract of class 1 farmland in Ontario protected. These fertile lands have been owned by the federal government since 1972 when they were expropriated for an airport that was never built. As of June 11 of this year, they are again threatened by an unnecessary airport and development. We must all work together to stop this and all 'growth' at the expense of foodland. KNOW FARMS, KNOW FOOD NO FARMS, NO FOOD Mary Delaney Chair, Land Over Landings


Peter Middleton says on December 16, 2013 at 6:15 PM

You forgot to mention all the Class 1 farmland being lost to Wind Turbine Projects and so-called Solar Farms!


Mary Delaney says on December 16, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Hallelujah! These words are music to our ears out here in North Pickering where we have been fighting for 41 years to have the last best biggest tract of class 1 farmland in Ontario protected. These fertile lands have been owned by the federal government since 1972 when they were expropriated for an airport that was never built. As of June 11 of this year, they are again threatened by an unnecessary airport and development. We must all work together to stop this and all 'growth' at the expense of foodland. KNOW FARMS, KNOW FOOD NO FARMS, NO FOOD Mary Delaney Chair, Land Over Landings


Dave Sharpe says on December 17, 2013 at 7:42 AM

Does the OFA really want to save our farm land , I think not , The federation has stood by in the wings ( sat on the fence ) while the bulldosers roll over our farms, thousands of acres in Ontario will be gone in the next 2 years and the OFA does nothing !! Yes you guessed it wind turbines each one take 2-3 acres including access roads to build . Turbines by the thousands going up as we speak , but they are not even mentioned . How can you ask for the preservation of farm land when farmers themselves , many OFA members are to blame for the biggest loss of farm land in the history of ontario?? Its a dam shame ..


mac ford says on December 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM

If the OFA is concerned about loss of agricultural land why are we not strongly opposing industrial wind turbines ?


David Graham says on December 17, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Mark, as I previously commented on one of the articles on farmland preservation, the Midhurst Secondary Plan which is going to put houses on 750 acres of Class 1 farmland seems to be flying under the radar at the OFA. I am disappointed that our premier/ ag minister is permitting this to proceed. I believe that the OFA should be much more vocal about this outrageous act!


Ella Haley says on December 17, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Thank you very much for this article. We are working very hard to preserve farmland in Brant County but it is being gobbled up by developers and landbankers and the City of Brantford. We need your help. Let's work together. 519-647-0307


Rebecca Coates says on December 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Availability of farmland is critical to the continuation of the ginseng industry. As you may be aware ginseng cannot be grown on the same land twice, as it is subject to "Replant Disease". Ginseng can only be grown along the sandy plains of Lake Erie. We continue to work to solve Replant Disease however; this is not something that will occur quickly. The ginseng industry provides $160 million annually to Canada's exports, a trend we will not be able to continue if we have no land to grow it on. Protecting Ontario's farmland is of great importance to our industry as without it we predict the demise of the industry and thus a significant impact to our local and countries economy. Please feel free to contact me to further discuss how we can partake in preserving Ontario's farmland.


Bob Almack says on December 19, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Congratulations Mark on your excellent article. Sprawl is destroying our vital agricultural industry. Sprawl is the reason Regional government requires never ending property tax increases. Sprawl subsidy is a major cause of our huge debt. Sprawl induced gridlock is making us less productive. Mark, you are right. We need food land protection legislation that will prevent politicians from destroying our food land. A good place to start to stop "the war on farmland" is to make the 14000 acres of class 1 farmland in North Pickering into a permanent agricultural preserve. Long term leases could be given to our young, talented agricultural grads. We can have a St Jacobs-like farmers market in Brougham. We can encourage a vibrant secondary farm industry ( canneries, food processing, abbatoirs, farm dealerships, machinists, welders etc) . This large tract of class 1 farmland is too valuable economic resource to squander on sprawl and another Mirabel airport.


Rob Hall says on December 20, 2013 at 10:03 PM

I find it utterly horrifying that the government after all these years and after Mirabel still want an airport on the Pickering lands. I was expropriated from there in 1972 and view it as one of the worst things that happened to not only my family but North Pickering as well. To see so many farmsteads abandoned is truly sad and irresponsible.


Peg Witt says on December 21, 2013 at 9:19 AM

I hate seeing all the development on our good farm land,,here in the gta...we should be preserving it...


Anne Ritchie Nahuis says on December 26, 2013 at 11:19 PM

I am very supportive of the comments by Mark. I am hopeful that Kathleen Wynne and the OFA will work together to ensure closer adherence to the Provincial Policy Statement and tightening up of certain loopholes. We need to include at least Class 4 & 5 land now that we have better tools such as tile drainage. We need OMAFRA to be included in discussions as to where development should occur. The planning act was created in the beginning to Protect Farmland as the public becomes more and more removed from farming we need to ensure that these founding principles are strong and followed by our Ontario Government. Not by Greenbelting certain areas which leads to leap frogging of development to other farm areas but ensuring all of Ontario's best farmland is protected.


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