Land-use planning and policies help to protect farmland throughout Ontario, however we are still losing farmland at an alarming rate. When farmland is lost, it fragments the agricultural land base, prevents farmers from being able to access other properties, or even farm necessities such as processors for their products. The Agricultural System was designed to protect farmland and the viability of farm systems.

OFT works with the Province and key partners to encourage greater protection for agriculture and farmland through planning and policy development. We promote improved policy to make agriculture and farmland protection a top priority across the Province. To follow up on our blog post describing the Provincial Policy Statement, we are going to give you a brief outline of the Agricultural System.

The Agricultural System is a database that maps the prime agricultural land in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). Not only does it identify the prime agricultural land across municipal boundaries, but it also identifies the important agricultural land that connects these patches of prime agricultural land. Traditionally, agricultural land was only given the title of “prime” if the soils were classes 1-3, organic, or if the land fell into a specialty crop area (OMAFRA, 2019(a)). The Agricultural System identifies land that is important to the connectivity of the prime agricultural land base. It was made in an effort to create and protect a contiguous agricultural land base throughout the GGH (OMAFRA, 2019(b)).

(Image: OMAFRA, 2019(b))

Without the Agricultural System in place, fragmentation of the agricultural land base could occur. With the Agricultural System, more land is protected, increasing the connectivity between farms and protecting the viability of agriculture in the area.

The Agricultural System mapping also includes the agri-food network, which encompasses all of the other parts of the agri-food industry (OMAFRA, 2019(b)). This means that food processors such as grain mills and abattoirs are also identified and included in the Agricultural System. Including these facilities is vital when it comes to protecting and enhancing the viability of the agricultural sector, as producers rely on them to help generate their livelihood. Not only does this recognize and protect these facilities as vital members of the agricultural industry, but it also identifies areas where the necessary facilities are lacking.

As of right now, the Agricultural System mapping is only available to the GGH, however, with the latest changes to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) it appears that the system will soon become province-wide. If the Agricultural System is implemented throughout Ontario, it will not only protect more of Ontario’s valuable farmland, but it will also help to maintain the viability of the agricultural sector throughout the Province.

The Ontario Farmland Trust regularly gives feedback on changes that are proposed to Provincial policies and plans that can impact farmland. If you are interested in reading some of our policy submissions click here.


References:

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). 2019(a).  FAQ Prime Agricultural Areas. Retrieved from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/prime-ag-areas.htm

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). 2019(b). Implementation Procedures for the Agricultural System in Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe. Retrieved from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/agsys-ggh-final.htm#a11