This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
At long last, the Ontario government has released the new Provincial Policy Statement. For the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, this has been a lengthy process with a huge number of stakeholder concerns to balance against each other in their effort to produce the new document. Throughout the lengthy process, the CFFO has consistently called for strengthened protection of our best farm land as a critical long-term strategic resource.
The CFFO is pleased to see improvements in some key areas that will help open up opportunity on the farm. The modified secondary uses definition opens up additional opportunities for today’s farms to engage in other means of generating income, including enhanced allowances around agro-tourism. The revamped approach to secondary agricultural activity should open up increased opportunity for this type of infrastructure at a scale that can compete in today’s tough business climate close to farms.
The CFFO is disappointed with the progress on curbing aggregate extraction in prime lands, despite the requirement for rehabilitation. The organization hoped to see increased limitations in this area. However, the Provincial Policy Statement increased the level of protection in specialty crop areas. Unfortunately, there are very few of these areas that have been identified in the province, and stronger guidance from the province is needed in establishing these zones.
There are several areas of enhanced environmental protection that may or may not be an issue in different areas of the province. There is no doubt that working towards improved overall environmental sustainability is tremendously important, but the agricultural community needs to be focused on finding workable solutions that protect the environment while still allowing responsible farming practices to occur.
The re-development of the Provincial Policy Statement is a monumental task that required careful consideration of a huge number of interested parties positions and opinions. There were some positive gains for the business of agriculture, and for the countryside as a whole. The CFFO looks forward to ensuring that the new policies are ones that are workable for agriculture.