This week, the Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) was pleased to participate in a roundtable discussion co-hosted by Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson,  Associate Minister of Housing Nina Tangri, and Parliamentary Assistant Rob Flack. The purpose of this discussion was for the government to hear directly from agricultural stakeholders. Martin Straathof, Executive Director of OFT, had the privilege of representing OFT to share our valuable insights.

First and foremost, OFT is pleased to announce that the government has taken a significant step in response to the concerns raised by agricultural organizations like ours. Minister Thompson has confirmed that the lot severance policies, which were a cause of significant concern, is off the table and will be completely removed from the final Provincial Planning Statement (PPS). This decision clearly shows that the government is actively listening to the agricultural community and taking our concerns seriously.

During the roundtable, 19 farm organizations, including OFT, came together and presented a united front on key positions and recommendations. Together, we emphasized the importance of preserving farmland and ensuring the right to farm. We fully support the government’s objective of addressing the housing supply shortage, but we believe that policies and proposals must be balanced in order to protect our agri-food sector, promote economic growth, and secure a reliable food supply for all Ontarians.

Our discussions centered around protecting all classes of agricultural lands, ensuring flexibility for farmers to engage in on-farm value adding, and focusing growth within existing settlement areas to minimize farmland loss and land use conflicts. We also highlighted the significance of provincially mapped Agricultural Systems, which will help safeguard our farmland for future generations and drive economic development across the agri-food value chain. 

OFT further advocated for the reintroduction of higher density targets from the Growth Plan across municipalities to maximize existing urban boundaries and promote responsible development. We advocated for stronger language to enforce protective policies to discourage land speculation. We highlighted the concern that farmers are often priced out of purchasing farmland by speculators, leading to farmland scarcity and rising land prices, threatening the viability of farm businesses, and discouraging the next generation from pursuing farming.

OFT’s final message to the Ministers was a commitment to collaborate with the government to achieve our shared goal of protecting Ontario’s valuable agricultural resources. As a trusted partner, we offer our expertise in farmland conservation easements, land donations, and community development models that integrate housing and farmland protection. We shared our position as an organization that is eager to support municipalities in establishing local agricultural preserves and ensuring affordable land access for young farmers.

It is important to emphasize that the removal of the lot severance policy and the government’s willingness to engage in these consultations demonstrate their commitment to working together with us. The progress made so far encourages us to remain optimistic about the future of Ontario’s farmland.

Thank you all for your unwavering support for the Ontario Farmland Trust. We encourage you to continue advocating for farmland protection with your MPPs. We will continue to keep you informed as we actively participate in these crucial discussions. Together, we can protect our farmland, nurture our agri-food sector, and secure a prosperous future for generations to come.