Soil Stewardship

What is the Issue?

The CFFO is concerned about the long-term preservation and improvement of the quality of farmland soil.

Why Does It Matter?

Productive soil is a valuable natural resource. Ontario has some of the best quality farmland in Canada, but arable land is highly limited, both in Ontario, and around the world. The quality of this soil needs to be protected and improved to safeguard its food-producing capacity. Good soil stewardship improves yields, prevents erosion and loss of nutrients into the environment, improves drainage and water-holding capacity, and sequesters carbon.

Soil stewardship is one way to help address many different ongoing issues across the province. Biodiversity on farms improves soil, ensures greater economic resilience of farms, and benefits wild species as well. Phosphorous loading into our Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, is now largely coming from non-point sources. Caring for soil and preventing erosion helps to keep nutrients and soil on the farm, and reduce loss into waterways. Soil organic matter can be improved by adding biologically sourced fertilizers such as manure, compost, and municipal biosolids. When these are treated as waste and fed into landfills, however, they create greenhouse gases which harm the environment rather than improving it. Farming methods that improve soil organic matter also sequester carbon. As concern about greenhouse gases increases, many are looking to the sequestering capacity of soil to help alleviate the problem.

Key Policy Questions

Biodiversity What policy measures and supports are needed to encourage greater on-farm biodiversity such as crop rotations, cover crops, and distribution and diversity of livestock production? How can productive farming  also benefit the wider ecosystem including migrating and endangered species and pollinators?

Nutrient Loss in Waterways – How can farmers best prevent soil erosion and loss of nutrients, even in small amounts, into rivers and lakes? Are regulations, support programs, or incentives the best way to achieve compliance with government targets?

Soil Organic Matter – Should municipal biosolids be used as fertilizer to improve farm soil? What policy measures will help ensure other biologically sourced fertilizers such as manure or compost are available to farms across the province and not concentrated in certain areas?

Carbon Sequestration – What role will agriculture play in the new Cap and Trade system in Ontario? How might farmers benefit by providing carbon offsets? What farm practices should be included as offsets in the system?