Joint report highlights the need for better farmland protection as a response to projected growth in Ontario

Through common ground, unconventional collaborative efforts are leading the way for farmland protection, as well as highlighting the importance of the ecosystems farmers work in and therefore, depend upon.

A collaborative joint report by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Environmental Defence entitled, “Farmland at Risk: Why land-use planning needs improvements for a healthy agricultural future in the greater Golden Horseshoe”, is a prime example of organizations coming together to build stronger awareness and recognition of the linked issues of farmland and environmental protection.

This report features the challenges faced by farmers in Ontario and the necessary action needed to improve farmland protection in light of the projected population growth in the region. Results of the report find that 75 percent of premium farmland in the Toronto region is at risk of being developed for non-agricultural farm use.

When it comes to current provincial land-use planning regulations, farmland protection is not a priority. Instead, planning rules treat farmland as “on hold” land to be used for future development purposes. This act dissuades investment in farm business while neglecting the fact that agriculture has, and continues to be, a key economic driver with strong potential for long-term contribution to economic growth.

Key findings of the report show that the greater Golden Horseshoe supplies $11 billion a year to Ontario’s economy and contributes $1.6 billion in environmental benefits per year including the absorption of carbon pollution, mitigating erosion and runoff, and water filtration.

Recommendations of the report include:
– Adopting a “positive planning” approach that better puts agricultural concerns into land-use decision-making;
– Halting urban boundary growth in the greater Golden Horseshoe area, until 2031 and perhaps into 2041 as there is more than a reasonable amount of “ land within existing municipal boundaries to accommodate forecasted growth;”
– Linking allocation of provincial infrastructure funds to municipalities that reach intensification targets; and
– Calling for municipalities to conduct agricultural impact assessments when their planning process affects farmland.

Furthermore, local food is increasingly becoming a key topic in food discourse. Local food economies require farmland; without local farmland there isn’t local food. Unfortunately, the battle to protect local farmland persists. Here’s to building stronger partnerships and alliances on the common front of environmental, food, and farmland protection.

To read the full report from Environmental Defence and OFA click here.

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