The OFA believes the highest and best use of Ontario’s arable land is for agriculture. Land capable of supporting agricultural activities is a finite, strategic, non-renewable resource worthy of preserving for its ability to provide safe, affordable and sustainable food/fibre/fuel for Ontario, Canada and the world. The world’s population is projected to rise to 9.8 billion by 2050, underlining the need to keep Ontario’s highly productive agricultural land producing food for Ontario, Canada and the world.
Based on the 2016 Census, Ontario farms encompassed 12.3 million acres; about 5% of Ontario’s land area. Comparing the 2011 and 2016 censuses showed a decline in the area of farms; this time from 12.6 million acres in 2011 to 12.3 million acres in 2016. This equates to a loss of 63,940 acres/year or 175 acres/day. The 2006 and 2011 censuses showed a loss of 128,400 acres/year or 350 acres/day. Ontario cannot sustain these continuing losses while still maintaining our ability to produce food, fibre and fuel from a limited and declining agricultural land base. The OFA firmly believes that the preservation of our productive agricultural lands for their ability to produce food, fibre and fuel is in Ontario’s interest.
The OFA also believes that the Government of Ontario should recognize the non-agricultural benefits or environmental goods and services, provided by agricultural lands; aesthetic and recreational space, air quality (including oxygen production), biodiversity, carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation, nutrient cycling, pollination services, soil erosion control, water cycling (purification, retention, flood attenuation, groundwater recharge) and wildlife and endangered species habitat. OFA believes that the Government of Ontario should develop an environmental goods and services program to compensate farmers who maintain agricultural land in long-term production.
Farmers deserve to earn a profit from their labour, investment, knowledge and expertise. To that end, the province has failed to address the long-term profitability and sustainability of farming, not only within the Greenbelt, but throughout Ontario. Profitable farms facilitate the long-term protection of agricultural land.
The OFA supports the efforts of our county federations of agriculture to stem the effects of urban growth onto agricultural land in their municipalities.
The OFA offers the following to assist local federations of agriculture and municipalities in achieving these goals.