CFFO Policy Tour Traveling the Province

January 31, 2020 | Paul Bootsma

CFFO Policy Tour Traveling the Province

Being part of the provincial economy requires big picture thinking and taking a “give and take” approach to co-operatively allow the economy to progress for the good of all. Agriculture is a major part of the Ontario economy that provides jobs, food, and recreational opportunities for the citizens of this province. For this reason, agriculture must be part of provincial economic planning.

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) has always encouraged the preservation of our farmland but balances that with the understanding that development also adds to our industry and the economy as a whole. Agriculture depends on infrastructure, natural resource extraction and the building of new residences for the population.

The 2020 CFFO Policy Tour began its trip across the province last week. The theme for this year’s discussion is “Balancing Farming with Development.” CFFO staff are asking our local members how best to balance growth and development with farming. We open the floor to listen to input from our members and guests on the subject.

This year we are looking at two tools to help find the right balance. First, the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), which is now 25 years in existence and is up for renewal. This voluntary tool encourages farmers to make improvements on their farms for the well-being of the environment but also serves as a positive connection for our relations with society. We want to know how to best keep the EFP useful and part of planning for the future on our farms.

The second issue we are addressing is the recently developed Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA). This tool considers the impact of non-agricultural development in rural regions of the province, especially within the Growth Plan Area.

AIAs are used to help evaluate things like farmland loss and fragmentation, changes to drainage & micro-climates, changes to Minimum Distance Separation & loss of growth opportunities, and the impact of noise, increased traffic or vandalism. The resulting report will make recommendations to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential negative impacts on agriculture. Farming organizations, including CFFO, will be asked to provide local knowledge to help assess how farms and farmers will be affected.

As an organization we have an opportunity to give input on these policy tools. We want those attending our sessions to look at the big picture and evaluate how beneficial or not development across the province is for the overall economy. There are times when the industry of agriculture will need to allow other uses for land that in the long run will also benefit the agriculture industry. The Policy Tour aims to encourage our government to find the right balance.

Paul Bootsma is Field Services Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.