Mark Reusser, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Trespassing on farm property continues to be an ongoing concern for many of our farmers across the province. As the warm weather arrives, farmers often deal with an increased number of off-road vehicles and rural trail hikers roaming the countryside.
With nearly 20,000 kilometres of trails in Ontario attracting thousands of visitors every year, it’s vital that trail users respect the rights of Ontario farmers and their land. What many individuals fail to realize is that our farms are also our homes. They’re where we raise our families, spend our time and make our living. Acts of trespass pose a serious threat to our families, employees, the integrity of our land and the health of our livestock.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is reminding all Ontario farmers to be aware of growing threats and to take precautions to prevent or mitigate the consequences of trespass that threaten regular farm activities, our family and employees’ sense of security and our livestock’s well-being.
Recently, OFA received a resolution from the Dufferin Federation of Agriculture, voicing concerns regarding ongoing issues with drivers and operators of ATVs, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles trespassing on private farm property. In many cases, incidents like this have the potential to put our families, employees and livestock at great risk, and can have detrimental effects on our crops, land and livelihood.
Anyone entering private property without legal authority or permission from the occupier is trespassing. If they fail to leave upon being asked to do so, they can be found guilty of an offence under the Trespass to Property Act. Examples of individuals who have the authority to access farm property without explicit permission include land surveyors, utility meter readers, building inspectors, public health inspectors and conservation authority staff. If in doubt, ask the person for their identification and authority to enter your property.
OFA has developed a variety of resources to share helpful tips and considerations that farmers and rural landowners can use in dealing with trespassing issues. We encourage all farmers to be aware of the resources available to them, and act in a proactive manner to avoid further damage or threat to their land.
OFA is encouraging all farmers to be prepared for unwanted visitors by posting ‘No Trespassing’ signs, or any other necessary biosecurity signs to clearly mark private property and biosecurity areas. Ensure that you remove any keys from your tractors and equipment and lock all building doors and vehicles. It is also important to train your family and employees on how to properly respond to unwanted visitors and situations that would require contacting the police.
More than ever, OFA has been focusing on raising awareness by working with local OPP units to further educate responders on the provisions proclaimed in the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 (STPFSA). The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act offers farmers, livestock transporters, and processing facilities new protections, and provides the Ontario judicial system additional tools to address direct threats to the food system associated with trespassing.
This past year, OFA has reached out to multiple police departments to discuss ways to prepare members to report and address unwanted trespass, and how to support police in communicating and implementing effective approaches to the mandates of the STPFSA. We encourage all members to utilize their resources and engage law enforcement in any situations of trespassing on farm property. With strong enforcement of STPFSA by police and the support of the courts, we will be able to keep our food supply chain, loved ones, agri-food workers and livestock safe from harm.
To learn more about the cost and availability of OFA’s ‘No Trespassing’ or biosecurity signs, members can contact their local Member Service Representative. Find the MSR in your area at ofa.on.ca/msr.
OFA will continue to advocate for the protection of farmland, and the safety and security of their farms, families, employees and livestock.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883 ext. 218