Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Mark Kunkel, OFA Director
There’s nothing farmers depend on more than farmland and healthy soil. So when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) announced the development of a soil health and conservation strategy, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) welcomed the initiative to sustain our most valuable farm resource.
OFA has always prioritized the sustainability of farms, it’s part of our mission. Healthy soil is essential for food production, a healthy environment and the long-term sustainability of Ontario agriculture. OMAFRA’s soil health and conservation strategy will help maintain and enhance the productive capacity of Ontario’s farmland, contribute to the economic growth of our agri-food sector, improve water quality and biodiversity, and increase agriculture’s resilience by adapting to climate change.
OMAFRA and agricultural industry groups like OFA have always shared a commitment to the sustainable management of farmland and soils. OFA President Don McCabe is serving as a member of the Agricultural Soil Health Working Group, a group of stakeholders brought together by OMAFRA representing farm organizations, soil conservation associations, academia and the federal government. Working together, the group will be researching and collecting information on the extent of soil-related challenges, including farming practices that affect soil health and the increasing risks of climate change. The working group will also reach out to farmers, industry and the public through a series of upcoming meetings and workshops to gather information and perspectives on soil health and conservation.
Ontario is home to approximately 4.1 million hectares of prime agricultural land. In 2006 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimated 57% of Ontario farmland was at risk of erosion and 82% was losing organic matter. Research has also shown changes in soil quality and erosion can reduce productivity and profitability through yield losses of up to 40%. Preserving Ontario’s farmland and soil is at a critical stage.
Soil health is also being recognized internationally with the United Nations marking 2015 the International Year of Soils. OFA is proud to be part of developing an Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy, working on behalf of Ontario farmers to maintain and preserve our most basic and essential resource – soil.