Government Report Released Prioritizing Protection of Agricultural Land

The much anticipated report “Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015 – 2041”, summarizing the review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Greenbelt Plan has just been released.

The coordinated review was led by an Advisory Panel chaired by the Honourable David Crombie, and included input through town hall meetings, presentations from stakeholder groups, and written submissions from organizations like the Ontario Farmland Trust.

Despite land being protected within the Greenbelt, the report highlights that land outside of the Greenbelt is suffering from the effects of urban growth. According to the report, in a period of five years (2006-2011) 160,619 acres of agricultural land was lost (approximately 4.4 percent) which for scale of comparison, is an area greater than the size of the city of Toronto.

As Canada’s fastest growing urban region, with an estimated increase from 9 million people to 13.5 million in just 25 years, in addition to environmental and climatic changes, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is under great pressure.

Recommendations within the report are designed to guide provincial and municipal land-use planning to support complete communities while protecting key assets such as premium farmland, water resources, and natural features.

The report identifies six strategic directions and 87 recommendations. Strategic directions include:

• Investing in transit and infrastructure
‌• Supporting agriculture investments and viability
‌• Growing the Greenbelt
‌• Protecting the environment and natural heritage
‌• Creating jobs
‌• Responding to climate change

Recommendations for protecting agricultural land focus on:

• Promoting the identification, mapping and protection of an agricultural system throughout the region

• Implementing stronger criteria to limit the loss and fragmentation of prime agricultural lands, particularly in the outer-ring municipalities beyond the Greenbelt

• Supporting productive agriculture

• Recognizing the importance of locally sourced food and urban agriculture

• Integrating the needs of agriculture throughout the plans, for example when considering settlement area expansion, the rural economy, management of natural resources, infrastructure development, climate change and plan implementation

• Applying an agriculture lens to other provincial policies and programs (such as climate change, transportation and infrastructure, financial tools, community improvement plans and education) to address the unique needs of agriculture in the GGH”

Reactions are mixed to this anticipated report. “While we are pleased with the emphasis placed on agriculture in this review, it will be imperative that the implementation of the plan keeps protection of the agricultural lands and systems connected to those lands top of mind,” said Jamie Reaume, Chair of the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance.

Click here for the full report.




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