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We must protect farmland for the sake of future generations

By Drew Spoelstra, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Ontario farmers know better than most that this province is home to some of Canada’s richest and most fertile farmland.

It’s where we grow food and feed for people and animals alike, but in addition to sustaining us, it also helps support climate change mitigation, benefits water and air quality and supports our environmental biodiversity.

At the same time, we know that Ontario needs growth to keep its economic engine going, expanded transportation networks to support the flow of people and goods, and housing for an increasing population.

Farmland is a finite but diminishing resource, and the availability of prime agricultural land is fundamental to Ontario’s future. It’s been a long time since our grocery store shelves were empty, but we only have to look to other regions of the world to understand that a country’s ability to feed its own population is an important pillar of a well-functioning and sustainable society.

That’s why we have long been strong advocates for farmland preservation and keeping this fertile soil in agricultural production – it’s the fundamental building block of our food and farming systems.

Unfortunately, the analysis of the latest Census of Agriculture statistics paints a bleak picture of what is happening in Ontario – the province is permanently losing an average of 319 acres of farmland a day or the equivalent of nine family farms from agricultural production every single week.

Although urban expansion isn’t the only cause of this loss, it’s undeniable that development is putting intense pressure on Ontario farmland and pushing up against urban-rural boundaries. The most current example is the ongoing farmland situation in the Waterloo Region municipality of Wilmot Township, where landowners are being threatened with expropriation for an as-of-yet undisclosed industrial development.

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