Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Marie Versteeg, CFFO Manager of Board and Committees
The Ontario government is working to build our agri-food sector across the province. Their most recent initiative is focused on the vibrant agri-food system, from farms to food processors to retail, in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region.
This summer, the Ontario government revised its four Land Use Plans for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). The plans will manage growth, promote economic development, support agriculture, and protect our natural heritage. Each of these four plans include a stipulation to create agricultural system mapping, with the intent of protecting farmland and keeping our whole agri-food system economically vital.
To support agricultural production and infrastructure in the region, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has created three tools; an Agricultural Land Base Map, draft Implementation Procedures for municipalities, and an online Agricultural System Portal. This last tool is an innovative way of looking at what supports are in place and where gaps exist in our agri-food network. If you live in the GGH, you can go online to find out how much corn is growing in your area, where the nearest farmers’ markets are—even where you might find the closest alpaca farm.
The Portal is just one of the tools that OMAFRA has designed to help municipalities to (a) see where agricultural supports are needed, (b) draw investors to their region, and (c) make wise decisions about development.
During the consultation process for these tools, CFFO recommended that the Agricultural System map include additional layers of information that reflect land use planning from other ministries or jurisdictions. CFFO would also like to see the map layers expanded beyond the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Most importantly, CFFO would like to see the proposed new Natural Heritage System Map included in this portal. This Natural Heritage System, drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), marks out large natural heritage areas and corridors, such as rivers, that link those larger areas and accommodate animal and plant migration and hydrological flow.
In the Agricultural System Portal, OMAFRA has created a potentially very useful tool for municipalities. We hope to see more collaboration between ministries to develop land use policies that enable sustainable farm production to continue.
There’s little doubt that these tools are a positive first step toward preserving one of Ontario’s most precious natural resources—our farmland.