By Nathan Stevens
May 18, 2012
The provincial government is conducting a review of the Aggregate Resources Act. This is an important piece of legislation for the agriculture sector due to competition for land within the rural countryside. The Christian Farmers submitted comments reflecting the long-term balance needed between aggregates and farmland.
In the big picture, the CFFO recognizes that aggregate extraction is essential for infrastructure development, and that municipalities are significant users of these resources. As a bulk resource, transportation is a significant cost factor, which has made a “close to home” extraction strategy a priority over time. However, the availability of significant “close to home” resources for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is diminishing, leading to broader considerations in the long-term.
Balanced against the economic aggregate extraction priority is the long-term strategic priority for Ontario to maintain its best farmland for the purpose of farming. Ontario is blessed with significant regions of high quality land, a moderate climate and tremendous access to fresh water. Secondly, Ontario is home to the second largest food processing hub in North America. Ensuring that the raw product for this hub remains “close to home” should be strategically significant for this province as it struggles economically and seeks strengths to build upon.
The CFFO has identified a number of land use concerns. The first is that that in Specialty Crop Areas, no aggregate extraction be allowed under any circumstance. Second, areas of class 1-3 farmland, including “rural” land that was considered to be of Class 1-3 quality at some point in the past, that no extraction be allowed below the water table. Finally, that aggregate operators be required to surrender their licenses in a timely manner following extraction to expedite rehabilitation of the site to an appropriate land use, preferably for agricultural uses.
There are also a number of broad strategic and policy directions that should be considered that relate to aggregate resource use in Ontario. First, recycling and re-use of aggregate resources on redevelopment sites must become a priority. Secondly, transportation infrastructure will need to be re-evaluated as the “close to home” aggregate strategy becomes less feasible over time.
The Aggregate Resources Act plays an important role in the rural landscape. From the CFFO perspective, the review needs to be sure it properly weighs the value of agriculture and the agri-food sector, and the land that serves as its foundation, when considering new possibilities for the rules surrounding aggregate use in Ontario.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.