Ontario Farming Groups Unite to Call on Province to Freeze Urban Boundaries Now

“Everyone wins when we design better planned, healthier urban and rural communities, while also creating an environment for farming and the agri-food economy to remain prosperous.”

News from the Ontario Farmland Trust

Posted December 1st, 2016 on Niagara At Large

low density sprawl closing in on what's left of our food-growing lands

low density sprawl closing in on what’s left of our food-growing lands

Guelph, Ontario – For the first time, all of Ontario’s major farm organizations, representing some 52,000 farms and 78,000 farmers, have come together to present a strong, united message to the province: freeze urban boundaries now to stop urban sprawl and protect farming in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH).

“The province needs to impose real boundaries on urban expansion, not more restrictions on farming,” says Keith Currie, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “Hard municipal growth boundaries must be part of the solution to supporting agriculture in the GGH so we don’t pave over the region’s farmland and displace more farm families and farming communities.”

OFA is joined by fifteen other agriculture organizations that are calling for stronger provincial leadership on farmland preservation, including the Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT), Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CCFO), National Farmers Union-Ontario, and the Golden Horseshoe Food & Farming Alliance.

The agriculture groups say that the province’s recently proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt Plan fail to protect the majority of farmers and farmlands in the region from ongoing and poorly-planned urban sprawl. They are concerned that the proposed new policy reinforces and enables status quo sprawl, making it difficult to see a future for local food and farming in the region.

“Nothing is more fundamental to protecting farmland and achieving the goals of the Growth Plan than freezing urban and rural settlement boundaries,” explains CFFO President Clarence Nywening. “This holds municipalities accountable to meeting their growth targets by using urban lands more efficiently and supporting denser, transit-oriented developments rather than allowing councils to be passive and complacent about sprawl.”

The province’s population growth projection of 4.5 million new  residents by 2041 is being used by developers to argue that more farmland should be designated for urban uses in the GGH.

However, independent research by the Neptis Foundation and others shows that more land for urban development in the region is not needed, with an excess of 25 years’ worth of farmland already designated by municipalities to accommodate growth in both urban and rural settlement areas. An area of prime farmland 1.5 times the size of the City of Toronto is in the process of being converted to housing subdivisions, warehouses and strip malls.

Not just home to the best farmland in Canada, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is home to one of North America’s largest agricultural and agri-food industry clusters, with a unique diversity of primary farm production, food processing, food service, food distribution and retail that represents the fastest growing employment sector in Ontario and generates $12.3 billion in annual economic activity.

Citing the outpouring of public support for a larger provincial role in establishing firm urban boundaries and protecting agricultural land during the Coordinated Land Use Planning Review, Norm Ragetlie, Chair of the Ontario Farmland Trust, says that “we are at a unique moment in history where there is an opportunity for the province to demonstrate real leadership in growth planning by enacting meaningful limits on urban expansion.”

“Everyone wins when we design better planned, healthier urban and rural communities, while also creating an environment for farming and the agri-food economy to remain prosperous, and working together to protect farmland forever.”

All groups calling for a freeze on urban boundary expansion include: the Ontario Farmland Trust, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, National Farmers Union – Ontario, Golden Horseshoe Food & Farming Alliance, Sustain Ontario, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, Food & Water First, Farms at Work, FarmStart, Land Over Landings, Langford Conservancy, Sustainable Brant, and the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.

About the Ontario Farmland Trust

The Mission of the Ontario Farmland Trust is to protect and preserve Ontario farmlands and associated agricultural, natural and cultural features of the countryside through direct land securement, stewardship, policy research and education for the benefit of Ontarians today and future generations.

Our Vision is for a future where Ontario’s best farmland is valued and permanently protected through sound policy, partnerships and proactive community engagement, where diverse farming communities thrive, and where the protection of farmland, agriculture and local food production is recognized as the foundation of a sustainable rural economy in Ontario

For more information on the Ontario Farmland Trust, click onwww.ontariofarmlandtrust.ca

(Niagara At Large wishes to thank Gracia Janes from Niagara, Ontario-based Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society – known by many simply as PALS – for bringing this news from the Ontario Farmland Trust to our attention.

It is news that comes at a time when our own Niagara regional government and some municipalities are considering some urban boundary expansions under pressure from developers who have plenty of room to build within the existing boundaries if they had the will to do it.)

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space provided after the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


One response to “Ontario Farming Groups Unite to Call on Province to Freeze Urban Boundaries Now

  1. Gary Screaton Page

    There are four necessities of life, without which we cannot long endure on this planet: air, water, food, and shelter. Canada in general and Ontario in particular, seem bent on polluting the first two. The also allow the destruction of those areas in which we can — presently at least — grow our food, freeing us from dependence upon imports from unreliable source countries. Finally, governments fail by allowing monied investors to price our shelter options out of the reach of far too many Canadians.
    Not just farmers, but also Canadians in general, should be pressuring governments at all levels to preserve what arable farmland remains for our food supply. They should be protecting our water supply and preserving our breathing air from continued pollution. Also, governments, again at all levels, should be encouraging even small farm operations, say of 25 acres or more, to thrive in local areas nearer those who buy what is produced. We should even be encouraging the keeping of some livestock (e.g., rabbits) and growing new kinds of “Victory Gardens” in backyards all over the country.

    Finally, all government levels should be putting limits on foreign ownership, and the unbounded manipulation of housing by block purchasing of real estate properties to drive up prices through the influx of capital from very rich sources. Are you old enough to remember the old “spec tax”? I was selling real estate at the time. I remember clearly how the phones that were ringing off the hooks in every real estate office in the province. Their ringing quickly slowed to a near halt the day the then Conservative government introduced the Speculation Tax to the Provincial Parliament.

    Government can control housing costs if the will to do so is there. As long as there are developers in the know, however, who profit from insider information or direct access due to their wealth and its reach into the pockets of politicians, housing will continue to rise. How do I know? I was present in a Toronto office the day before that same Conservative government brought the “Spec Tax” to the provincial parliament. There I heard the announcement, by a staffer, about the pending tax, which the Conservatives had yet to make known to parliament. Somebody, at the time, clearly had access to a Cabinet minister or staffer! Can we expect differently now with $1500 dinners still giving limited access to politicians for those who, because of their wealth, have the inside track on what is coming down the pipe? Alternatively, consider how convicted felon, Conrad Black, waltzed into Canada while many an immigrant charged in a home country with a lesser offense, is denied entry.

    Sadly, too many of us, have been so far removed from our sources of food we cannot think of ever not having access to the bounties that are found in our local grocery stores. Certainly, few of us have access to the real decision makers who approve how our water, air, and real estate are to be used and abused. Surely, the way Nestles, for instance, has been pumping water by the millions, or even billions of liters, from Canadian and other nations’ aquifers for mere pennies per million gallons, should be a warning of how reliant we are becoming on large corporations, driven by sometimes uncontainable profits for our food and other life necessities.

    Listen to and heed the farmers before doing so is too late!


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