This week’s guest commentary comes from Bruce Webster, Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The long-term viability of Ontario farmland is at risk, according to a recent OFA survey. More than 350 members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) participated in a survey this spring about farmland rental agreement conditions. And the results concluded many Ontario farmland landlords are not making long-term investments in their land, putting the production capacity and overall viability of the land at risk.
Survey participants represented more than 225,000 acres in Ontario that were owned, rented or sharecropped. Ontario’s farmland can’t continue to deliver high yields and superior products if landlords are not investing in improvements like tile drainage. Approximately 75% of the survey respondents said they would invest in long-term land improvements if they owned the land that they currently rent. This suggests non-farming landlords are not making the necessary farmland improvements.
An estimated 40% of Ontario farmland is rented out. And as farmers continue to expand their businesses and land base with rented acres, it’s never been more important to ask questions about how our farmland is being taken care of now, and to secure food production for future generations. The OFA believes it’s important to know what kind of restrictions and conditions landlords are imposing in rental agreements. Survey results showed most of the rented acres were cropped with corn, soybeans, wheat and forages, or hay.
The 12-question online survey, open to OFA members, was prompted by research conducted by the University of Guelph’s Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics Department. And based on the response to this farmland survey, the OFA has great cause for concern. If farmland is rented out for years and decades at a time, as it often is, important productivity improvement investments aren’t likely to happen. The overall production capacity of Ontario’s farmland will diminish.
Ontario’s ability to produce an abundance of quality food will be challenged unless efforts are made to encourage landlords to make the necessary long-term investments in their farmland. The OFA is sharing the results of this survey with other agricultural organizations invested in the future of farmland production and with key government policy makers to shed light on these disturbing trends that will impact food production in our province.
The OFA is invested in the sustainability and viability of Ontario’s farmland on behalf of our members and the entire agri-food sector. OFA regularly surveys members to ensure their voice and concerns are heard on issues affecting their farm businesses. The OFA will be conducting additional member surveys and research on this issue. Without healthy land and soil, our ability to produce enough safe and healthy food will be severely compromised.