Political Will Necessary for Farmland Preservation
May 11, 2018 | By Marie Versteeg
This May, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is reaching out to provincial candidates on three key issues for farming communities: agri-food sector success, farmland preservation, and water stewardship.
This week’s focus has been on farmland preservation.
CFFO district leaders across the province reached out to candidates and local media to voice concerns about the long-term protection of this precious resource.
Forty-two percent of Ontario’s prime cropland, including two specialty crop areas, can be found within the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). This same area is also slated to see a population increase of four million people by 2041.
Feeding Ontario and finding homes for all these people is a significant challenge for planners and politicians. More than ever, our prime farmland needs to be protected.
The CFFO is asking candidates to support measures that will protect farmland in areas facing significant growth, both within and beyond the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Productive farmland is essential to the success of farming communities and agri-food sector strength for the province. But protecting the land isn’t enough. Protecting farmland for farming means protecting the infrastructure that sustains it—businesses and services that support farms and rural communities.
Agriculture system policies have been incorporated into land use planning in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The Agriculture System maps agricultural production, land use, infrastructure, and agri-food businesses and services across the region. It’s designed to help municipalities make informed planning decisions that strengthen the agri-food value chain as a whole.
The CFFO sees a strong case for extending agricultural system and land-base mapping to other growing regions in the province, as well. Good farmland, once paved over, cannot be replaced, irrespective of whether it’s in the Greater Golden Horseshoe or not.
Expanding this policy to other parts of the province would not only protect productive farmland; it would also encourage land-use planning and economic development that incorporates the necessary infrastructure—feed mills, processing plants, abattoirs, and the like—to support a prosperous agri-food sector, province-wide.
The CFFO believes that land should be set to its best purpose: the best food-growing land should grow food; the most environmentally sensitive land should preserve nature. Good planning and density targets can prevent urban sprawl, but without government intervention, farmland will continue to be converted to low-density housing as long as building outward remains more profitable than building upward.
Agriculture and agri-food can be a cornerstone of the Ontario economy, but political will is necessary to help it thrive.
Marie Versteeg is Manager of Executive Board and Committees 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, CKXFM Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.