Policy and Preservation Make Farms Forever Possible

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) submitted recommendations on Farms Forever, an Ontario government initiative that will inform future agri-food policy.

Among the CFFO’s top concerns are improving infrastructure to support local food economies, changing policy to support new farmers, and preserving farmland.

OMAFRA’s Farms Forever Discussion Paper, released in May, asks for stakeholder input on four major policy areas:

  1. preserving agricultural land near major urban centres,
  2. supporting locally sourced food,
  3. strengthening Ontario’s agri-food sector, and
  4. supporting young and new farmers.

While OMAFRA treats each issue distinctly in its discussion paper, it’s easy to see how one issue bleeds into another: supports for local food economies can have a positive effect on Ontario’s agrifood sector as a whole, which can open up opportunities for new farmers.

Take, for example, the issue of abattoirs and other food processing facilities. A restrictive and costly regulatory environment has forced many small community abattoirs and processing plants out of business. The CFFO recommends re-examining regulations to accommodate small-sized businesses. A change like this could make a huge difference across the province, keeping local foods available for local consumers at a reasonable cost.

Building Ontario’s local food infrastructure checks off a number of important boxes for the Ontario government, including growing our economy and reducing the greenhouse gases that come with lengthy transport of food.

Changes to regulations that affect succession planning could also make a huge difference for young and new farmers. The CFFO suggests opening up tax rules to allow non-family members to inherit farms, enabling more first-generation farmers to get a start.

But it all hinges on farmland preservation.

The CFFO has applauded recent government commitments to preserve farmland in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) area. Intensifying capacity in areas that are already urbanized is key to keeping our existing farmland safe for future generations, and it is remarkable—given today’s lucrative development opportunities—that farmland is being safeguarded. The CFFO is happy to see government taking the long view.

But we hope they’ll take an even longer view. Farms Forever focuses on the GGH, where the rate of development is the most intense. There’s no doubt that farms closest to major urban development are at greatest risk, but the CFFO urges government to extend similar intensification policies to urban centres outside of the GGH. Even rural municipalities can look for development opportunities within town limits before casting an eye to the farmland on the outskirts of town.

The CFFO’s complete list of recommendations can be found online at www.christianfarmers.org.

For further information:

Contact Suzanne Armstrong, Director of Research, suzanne@christianfarmers.org.

Posted by cffoadmin on July 11, 2017