Farm organizations speaking out to protect Ontario’s farmland

GUELPH – The National Farmers Union-Ontario (NFU-O), Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), along with numerous commodity and agricultural organizations are united in their opposition to Bill 97 and proposed changes to provincial planning policy.

Together, the organizations are urging farmers to tell local provincial parliamentarians and the province about opposition to Bill 97 and the new proposed Provincial Planning Statement, according to a press release. The government should abandon its proposal to allow for the severing of farmland parcels in recognition of the current and future value of agriculture to the province’s economy, to our long-term food security, and long-term vibrant rural communities, states the release.

The provincial government’s newly introduced Bill 97 and proposed Provincial Planning Statement will weaken farmland protections by allowing up to three lot severances per farm parcel in prime agricultural areas province-wide for residential, non-farm uses, in addition to weakening important protections for specialty crop areas, according to the release.

“This legislation will have impact on all Ontario farmers now and in the future. It will fragment and permanently remove farmland from productive agricultural use, and limit farm business growth,” OFA president Peggy Brekveld said. “Ontario’s productive farmland is a scarce resource, making up less than five per cent of all the land in the province. Agricultural production is the most valued and best use of this land.”

NFU Ontario president Max Hansgen said, “Directing growth to settlement areas, urban and rural is better for both agriculture and municipalities.” 

He added: “Housing needs can be met in serviced settlement areas on a much smaller land base, reducing farmland loss and potential land use conflicts while ensuring efficient use of municipal infrastructure investments.”

Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario present Ed Scharringa said, “As farm leaders and organizations, we have worked diligently to manage and mitigate conflict between farming and non-farming neighbours in all types of agriculture.” 

Proposed changes will “exacerbate conflict” between farming and non-farming neighbours Scharringa suggested.

Farmers can add their voice and speak up against what the organizations say are short-sighted legislative proposals by sending letters from the OFA or NFU websites.