‘Gone forever’

Dear Editor:

The Wellington Federation of Agriculture have been keeping abreast of Bill 23 and the other provincial changes that have gone along with it and have been reading the letters to the editor in this publication about it.

WFA is in communication with local tier municipalities regarding Bill 23 and other agriculture issues. There is much to be concerned about and we are glad that others outside of the agriculture sector are seeing that. The 2021 census found that farmland in Ontario was now being lost at a rate of 319 acres a day. The previous number from the 2016 census was 175 acres. Both are huge numbers when considering that only about five per cent of the province’s land can support growing food, fiber or fuel.  

 Prior to the passing of Bill 23, WFA was reviewing a report by Watson and Associates – the consultants commissioned by Wellington County to assist with the Official Plan Review. The report states that the county will need to add 25% more to its growth plan to meet the provincial required targets by 2051. This growth will require expansion of the urban settlement boundaries and will see farmland disappear forever. 

A presentation to the county planning committee and a public meeting took place on Jan 12 for the official plan amendment No. 120 for the County of Wellington.  The presentation and proposed land needs assessment for the local tiers in Wellington County can be found on the county’s PlanWell page on its website.

As part of the County’s Official Plan Review, WFA have asked the county to remove the designation of secondary agriculture from the Official Plan and treat all farmland as prime and increase the urban intensification target to 25% from the recommended 15%.  Wellington County is in a unique position in Ontario; over 80% of the land in its boundary can be used for agriculture. Not only is Wellington County capable of supplying enough food for a large part of Ontario, but it also feeds the world. There are many areas that cannot supply their own food. We are very fortunate here. 

Ontario Federation of Agriculture farm policy analyst Emily Sousa has done a great job explaining the effects of farmland loss and land planning to the public at large. Her conversations/interviews can be found online with Bern Tobin of Real Agriculture (Dec. 2) and Mike Farwell of Kitchener City News (Nov. 23).

Education about what will happen if the loss of farmland continues at the rate it is disappearing at is important. We encourage everyone, urban and rural, to understand the importance of a non-renewable resource such as farmland. Once it is paved over, it is gone forever.  

Barclay Nap,
Vice president, Wellington Federation of Agriculture (WFA), on behalf of the WFA Board of Directors