The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario continues to be concerned about land use changes occurring in the countryside. Prime agriculture land is under constant pressure to be converted into a subdivision or a gravel pit. Fortunately, the Provincial Policy Statement is currently under review, giving our organization and others a chance to request land use rules that preserve and sustain the countryside.
The CFFO believes that proximity to food producing land should be acknowledged as part of a healthy, liveable and safe community. Unfortunately, agriculture is conspicuously absent from a list of planning factors known to contribute to community within the Provincial Policy Statement. Planners need to be aware of the importance of agriculture in the community and include it in their deliberations.
The Federation is also concerned with the expansion of settlement areas into prime farmland. It is the organization’s belief that our best agricultural land should be used for its best natural purpose, which is food production. To do this, we need a potent strengthening of the guidelines that limit expansion of settlement areas.
The CFFO is also concerned about the impact of aggregate extraction, particularly when it comes to the protection of specialty crop lands. At present, aggregate extraction could be allowed on some of Ontario’s most unique and valuable farmland. The CFFO believes that this possibility should not exist.
There are many areas of the province in which on-farm secondary and agriculture-related uses are being hindered. In other areas, anything goes. Quite simply, there isn’t strong enough direction coming from the Provincial Policy Statement on these uses. The CFFO wants to see the ability of farmers to engage in these uses strengthened, provided the scale is appropriate to the family farm.
Finally, the CFFO believes that the province needs to step up and provide additional incentives for cities and developers to redevelop brownfields within cities. This step would greatly reduce the pressure to expand cities. A focus on smart growth and renewal would improve the sustainability of our cities and preserve farmland in the future.
The CFFO has identified a number of key areas in land use planning that need to be focused on during the review period of the Provincial Policy Statement. We hope that aspects of the policy can be adjusted to strengthen agriculture and improve the long-term sustainability of Ontario.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. It can be heard weekly on CKNX Wingham and CFCO Chatham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. The CFFO is supported by 4,300 farm families across Ontario
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