Local farmer alleges strong-arm tactics by City to encourage farmers to sell property.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com
According to St. Thomas farmer Tom Martin, the city plan to lure an electrical vehicle battery manufacturer to the area will mean that some of the best farmland in Ontario—and the cash crops it produces—will be paved over.
Per a recent news article in The London Free Press, the city has already accumulated an 800 acre parcel of farmland, land and slated it for industrial use.
Martin alleged that the city and its economic development office purchased the property under the cloak of secrecy, forcing the landowners to sign NDAs (non-disclosing agreements) to avoid any future talk about the purchases. He claimed that some of the sellers felt pressure to sell, possibly with the expropriation of their property by the city.
He wondered why working farmland would need to be utilized for the city’s plans, when there is other land nearby that had been previously abandoned by farmers—non-prime land.
Because of the NDA in place, he wants to know the city was not transparent in its plans and purchases and why the farming community (or community at large) was not afforded the opportunity to discuss it.
In the news article, it noted that Sean Dyke, Chief Executive of the St. Thomas economic development Agency said that municipalities and their economic development agencies often must acquire land by stealth, so as not to inflate land values when spending tax dollars.
Dyke added: “Everywhere we are now, where we work, used to be something else. We do need farmland and food products, but we also have to accommodate for the growth of our community.”
St. Thomas farmer Martin owns and operates a 400 acre farm—land the family has operated since the 1950s. He farms corn, winter wheat, and beans. His property is just east of the 800 acres the City may want to use to build an car manufacturing facility on.
Along with the loss of farmland, he and other local area farmers are also concerned about what the city’s planned industrial development will do to the area’s property values.
According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Province of Ontario loses on average 319 acres of agricultural land a day, per 2021 Census data.