The Ontario Legislature has unanimously passed a sign bill to promote Ontario grown agricultural products.
It was a private member’s bill introduced by Ernie Hardeman, the Progressive Conservative critic for Agriculture and Food, and it now has second reading. Three are required
“Every summer Ontarians look for signs to direct them to the farm for fresh Ontario produce,” said Hardeman. “Farmers depend on the on-farm sales these signs generate as an important source of income … We need to ensure that red tape doesn’t stop them from meeting this demand.”
The law would allow farmers to post seasonal and directional signs advertising their Ontario Grown food products on private property adjacent to highways. Current laws prohibit signs within 400 metres of a highway unless it displays the name of the premises, the name of the owner of the premises, or a ministerial permit has been granted.
Last spring the Ministry of Transportation forced some farmers in Norfolk County to remove their signs, including Charles Emre, an asparagus farmer who estimated that without the sign his sales dropped 50 per cent.
Brenda Lammens, chairman of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, who was at the legislature to support the bill, said, “The ability to erect a directional sign on privately owned, agriculturally zoned land makes sense for farmers and consumers.”
Members from all three parties endorsed the bill, which passed second reading and has been referred to committee.
“I am very pleased at the support this bill has received from farmers, agricultural groups and now the Ontario Legislature,” said Hardeman. “I hope that we can move this bill forward to committee hearings quickly to support our farmers and help Ontarians once again follow the signs to discover great locally grown food – straight from the farm.”
In Wellington County, there is likely to be little implications. The county passed its own sign bylaw a few years ago.
It was designed to prevent monster billboard signs cluttering up the landscape, and all large signs had to be located at least 400 metres from county roads.
County engineer Gord Ough said in an interview that the county allows signs that advertiser fresh produce and Christmas trees without even requiring a permit if they do not exceed 1.5 metres inside the edges.
“It’s the big signs that have to be back that far [400 metres] Ough said. “You do see them from time to time, but not in Wellington County.
He added that those selling produce from the farm gate often do not need signs, and if farmers use them, they are too small to require permits or be affected by the bylaw.