Ontario’s land-use planning policies help to protect the province’s farmland and ensure the viability of Ontario’s agricultural industry. Even so, farmland is still being lost at an alarming rate. Throughout the entire province farmland faces pressure from urban development and sprawl, however different areas experience higher levels of development pressure than others. For example, as we learned in the Greenbelt Plan blog post the land in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) is facing some of the highest development pressures in the province due to the region’s rapidly growing population. To cope with development pressure, we need strong, uniform land-use planning and policies in place to protect all farmland in Ontario and limit urban sprawl.
OFT works with the Province of Ontario and other key partners to encourage greater protection for agriculture and farmland through planning and policy development. We regularly provide policy recommendations to the government in order to promote policy that makes agriculture and farmland protection a top priority across Ontario. To follow up on our blog post describing the Greenbelt Plan, we are going to give you a brief outline of the Provincial Policy Statement.
The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is what guides all land-use planning and policy in Ontario (OMMAH, 2019). Essentially, it is a set of rules that all other land-use policies must conform to. It applies to the entire province, and contains guidance for development, industry, agriculture, natural heritage preservation, and all other land-use planning issues in Ontario (OMMAH, 2019). While not all of the topics covered in the PPS impact the agricultural industry and farmland protection, many of them do.
For instance, the PPS contains specific policies that protect prime agricultural land and specialty crop areas from conversion to non-agricultural uses. Municipalities have to abide by these protections when proposing things such as municipal boundary expansions (OMMAH, 2019), which are a direct threat to farmland as it sets farmland up for being developed in the future. While these policies do increase the amount of initial protection given to these valuable lands, the PPS also allows for some exceptions to these policies to be made. These exceptions can threaten farmland, which is why the protections for these areas can always be strengthened.
In 2019, the new changes to the PPS were proposed and OFT submitted a recommendation to the government to help strengthen the protection for agriculture and farmland within the policies. In our recommendation, we provided commentary on some proposed changes that could directly endanger farmland, changes such as allowing aggregate mines on prime agricultural land. We also recommended that practices such as Agricultural Impact Assessments be adopted into province-wide planning policies, as this will help strengthen protection for farmland and agriculture in Ontario. If you would like to read our submission on the Provincial Policy Statement, click here.
If you are interested in learning more about land-use planning and how it connects to farmland protection, come to our Farmland Forum on March 26, 2020 in Guelph, where we will explore a variety of issues related to land-use planning, agriculture, and farmland protection.
Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (OMMAH). 2019. Provincial Policy Statement 2014. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/document/provincial-policy-statement-2014.