By Nathan Stevens
The people of Ontario are heading to the polls this June to determine which political party will govern Ontario for the next four years. The agriculture and agri-food sector is an important part of the Ontario economy and rural life, and there are many concerns that different parts of the sector hope to see addressed. The CFFO is concerned about the long-term protection of our best farmland for farming.
The importance of our best farmland is one that affects everyone. At the global level, agriculture faces the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050 on a shrinking land-base. In Ontario, we will be adding nearly 3 million people to the Greater Golden Horseshoe region by 2030. Feeding the world, feeding Ontario, combined with the challenge of finding homes for all these people is a significant challenge for planners and politicians that requires vision and forethought.
The CFFO believes that the land should be set to its best purpose. The best food growing land should be tasked with growing food. The most naturally sensitive land should be dedicated to nature. The land that is not particularly well suited to either of these purposes should be a place for houses and condos. Unfortunately, without government intervention the situation that exists is that farmland will be converted to low-density housing as long as it is more profitable to build outward on the landscape rather an upward with apartment buildings and condos.
The CFFO wants our political parties to commit to strengthening the protection of agricultural lands throughout the province by requiring municipalities outside the greater golden horseshoe to apply “smart growth” principles to their planning approach. For farmers within the Greater Golden Horseshoe, governments need to develop a vision for what agriculture can be within the near urban environment and develop the policy changes needed to make it happen.
The CFFO believes that our political parties need to be planning for the future of food producing lands in our province. From the perspective of CFFO, that begins with ensuring that our best food land is preserved for agriculture in the long-term.