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Ont. ag community concerned about Bill 97

Ont. ag community concerned about Bill 97

The Helping Homeowners, Protecting Tenants Act would allow farmers to build up to three new homes on existing property

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A piece of Ontario government legislation has members of the province’s ag community concerned about the fate of farmland.

“It’s worrisome to say the least,” Crispin Colvin, vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), told

The piece of legislation Colvin is referring to is Bill 97, the Helping Homeowners, Protecting Tenants Act.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark introduced the bill in April as a tool to help the provincial government support the construction of 1.5 million homes in the next 10 years. The bill is currently on its second reading at Queen’s Park.

One part of the bill relates to farmland.

Bill 97 would allow farmers to build up to three new residences on their existing property.

But the legislation lacks clarity, Colvin said.

“There’s no definition of what a farm is,” he said. “Is it five acres? 10 acres? 100 acres? There hasn’t been any definition of how large a home can be. Is it restricted to 2,000 square feet or can you build a 20,000 square-foot mansion? We need more details.”

Farmers with larger operations could split farmland into multiple parcels to build more homes, removing more farmland, Colvin said.

For context, the 2021 Census of Agriculture calculated Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland per day. The 2016 Census of Agriculture pegged the farmland loss at 175 acres per day.

In addition to the overall loss of land, building homes on existing farmland could hinder farming activity.

Placing a new home on an established farm means additional hurdles, Colvin said.

“Now I’m subject to minimum distance separation if I wanted to expand a poultry, beef or hog barn,” he said. “Or what if I’m spreading manure on a Saturday afternoon while someone is trying to have a family picnic? Or at harvest time if a combine goes by someone’s house in the middle of the night? That’s where you run into problems and complaints.”

Bill 97 is a policy that puts agriculture in a challenging situation, said Martin Straathof, executive director of Ontario Farmland Trust.

The Ontario government knows how much farmland Ontario is losing, and this policy decision is going to increase that number, he says.

“Ontario is losing farmland at an alarming rate,” he told “So, when we see policies that are going to weaken protections and allows for farmland fragmentation, we know that’s going to increase the rate of loss.”

And experts in the land planning field say Ontario can accommodate new homes without bulldozing farmland.

A report titled Review of Housing Unit Capacity Identified in Initial Land Needs Assessments Prepared for Upper and Single Tier Municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, prepared by Kevin Eby, a registered professional planner, indicates that “no additional overall housing capacity was required in the (Greater Golden Horseshoe) to meet its share of the 1.5 million housing target.”

The housing issue doesn’t appear to be a land issue, but a developer issue, Straathof says.

“Eby’s report found that we have about 1.25 million homes approved in this province for development, but developers aren’t putting shovels in the ground,” he said. “So when you hear the rhetoric about there being too much red tape stopping home building, or that we have to open up more land, you have to wonder how true that is.”

Finding housing solutions for rural residents is important.

The next generation of farmers need access to housing, and current farmers want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

But the method in which homes are built needs to be a modern one, Straathof said.

“We’re rolling back the clock 50 years by saying the only way to get houses into these rural communities is to sever these lots,” he said. “We should look at newer, more innovative land access models instead of recycling the same policies that lead to the deterioration of our agri-food system.”

Removing arable farmland contributes to other issues, Straathof says.

With an RBC report suggesting 40 per cent of Canadian farmers will retire by 2033, young producers will need land to farm on.

If there’s fewer acres available, the cost of farmland will rise, creating barriers for new farmers.

“What is the future of agriculture in this province if we don’t have a next generation of farmers to get into farming?” he said. “When you sever parcels of farmland, you increase the cost per acre in buying farmland, which further threatens the issue we have about who our farmers are going to be in generations to come.”

Ontario already has some of the most expensive farmland in the country.

Farm Credit Canada’s 2022 Farmland Values Report indicated the cost of farmland in the province increased by 19.4 per cent that year, with farmland in the southwestern part of the province valued at $28,900 per acre.

Trending Video

Mechanical Damage: Another Reason to Promote Certified Seed Usage

Video: Mechanical Damage: Another Reason to Promote Certified Seed Usage

So far this year, Shari Lafreniere of 20/20 Seed Labs has noticed a distinct change in the levels of mechanical damage to seed compared to last year. In this Insiders column she gives us the scoop on what the situation is like with regard to mechanical damage.

Unlike 2022, where we faced significant challenges, this year has been a different story, and we’re not seeing high levels of it in samples coming off the field. Of course, that can change once seed enters the cleaning and storage stage.

Of course, for seed to receive a blue tag, it must be tested by an authorized seed lab, ensuring its quality and freedom from defects. It’s yet another reason for the seed sector to promote the use of certified seed among growers.

Mechanical damage to bin-run seed is a critical issue that can impact crop yields and profitability. It's a topic that often falls under the radar, but it deserves more attention, especially in years marked by extreme weather conditions like dry spells and scorching heat. In such years, the risk of mechanical damage to non-certified seed becomes significantly higher.

One of the key factors to consider in the cleaning stage is the brittleness of seeds. In dry and hot conditions, bin-run seed tends to become more brittle, making it more susceptible to damage. This brittleness is particularly evident in larger seed crops. The challenge then is to minimize mechanical damage during various stages of its use, from seeding, to harvesting, to conditioning, and finally storage.

If you have customers who save seed rather than choosing to buy new seed every year, it’s a good idea to provide them with the knowledge they need to prevent mechanical damage.

The following are some practical steps that can help growers protect seeds and reduce the risk of mechanical damage when handling seed:

Maintain Augers: Ensuring that augers are in good shape is essential. Check for damage or pitting on the flighting, as damaged augers can lead to more seed damage.

Optimize Seed Movement: When moving seed, do it as infrequently as possible. Reducing the number of times seeds are transferred can significantly reduce the risk of mechanical damage.

Sweeps and Loading: Properly manage sweeps within the bin and ensure they are in good condition. When loading seeds into a trailer or truck, especially with larger-seeded crops, start with a gentle layer at the bottom and go a bit lower with the auger to create a cushioning effect. This simple step can make a big difference in protecting seed.

Drills: When working with drills, pay attention to the fans and how they are loaded, whether using a conveyor or an auger. Proper handling during seeding is crucial to minimize damage.

While mechanical damage is largely within a grower’s control, it's essential for them to recognize that weather and climate conditions can play a significant role. In a hot and dry year, seeds are more vulnerable to damage due to their increased brittleness. Some crop varieties are more susceptible than others, especially in the case of larger-seeded crops, where the seed coat may not be as resilient when dry.

Even crops under irrigation can experience issues in extreme heat, as the water can't be consistently applied to maintain ideal moisture levels. Without the usual cooling effect at night, the risk of mechanical damage is further heightened. Also, it’s important to note that irrigation can’t mitigate heat blast, caused by a combination of hot days and warm nights, which can further increase the chances of mechanical damage.


Comments (1)

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Farms should only be allowed to sever 10 acre lots at less than the going rate. This would make people think twice about severing. Also, those buying these lots must be required to farm them and they should also be involved in agriculture in some other form such as vet, milk truck driver, farm labourer etc. This way we would be encouraging / helping more people to get involved in farming even if it is hobby farming. The point is that we want people to live in the country who are country minded folks - people who care about agriculture. We don't want urbanites moving to the country thinking it is the new Muskoka, clogging up our rural roads with four wheelers, bicycles, school buses while we try to move our big equipment down the road. We should take control over who lives in the countryside. Doug Ford and his Toronto-centric logic does not work for rural Ontario.
Bill |May 11 2023 11:52AM