8, 2003: The best farmland in the province firmly
protected for family farm agriculture for generations has
long been part of the Christian Farmers Federation's vision
for farming. There are pockets of success in Ontario, but
it is increasingly difficult to shield farmland from urban
Last winter's CFFO workshop series, "Planning for Action
to Save the Family Farm," explored barriers to protecting
our best farmland. About 225 members and friends of CFFO participated
in 19 sessions across the province.
Participants criticized all the players in land use changes
for failing to protect our best farmland. Ten percent of participants
blamed the province. Fourteen percent named municipalities.
Fifteen percent fingered developers. Twenty-three percent
held scattered non-farm developments responsible. Twenty-nine
percent identified farmers themselves as part of the problem,
while thirty-five percent criticized the whole land use planning
The province was blamed for not containing urban development,
for failing to direct it to poor quality farmland and for
approving one last crop of houses on the best land as long
as there is some proof that people want to move there. One
participant noted: "If the province is not willing to
protect farmland, should farmers be expected to?"
Developers were fingered for their close ties with politicians,
for their lobbying to eliminate restrictions, for their studies
based on short-term economics and their lack of understanding
of the long-term value of good farmland.
Scattered non-farm uses were held responsible for driving
up the value of farmland beyond the reach of family farmers,
for creating restrictions on livestock farms and pressuring
for all kinds of new uses, in addition to farming, on our
Farmers identified themselves as part of the problem, for
thinking like landowners and emphasizing the development value
of farmland rather than the productive value important to
their farm businesses. They noted that farmer independence,
commitment to free enterprise, and land as retirement savings
get in the road of protecting farmland.
The planning system was criticized for failing to understand
agriculture's needs, for trying to make one set of rules fit
the whole province, for supporting short-term interests at
the expense of farming's long-term aspirations, and for failing
to create policy alternatives that allow farmers to retire
and build retirement homes.
The Niagara Escarpment has a Commission that defends the
escarpment's importance in Ontario. The Oak Ridges Moraine
has recently been given legislation enshrining its value and
creating a taxpayer-funded voice to defend it. Government
agencies, like conservation authorities, will go to the wall
for valleys, areas of natural and scientific significance,
forests and floodplains.
It is time that prime farmland had its own publicly funded
voice and defender.
Corner Post can be heard weekly on CFCO Radio, Chatham and
CKNX Radio, Wingham, Ontario. Corner Post is archived on the
website of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario: www.christianfarmers.org.
To be added to the electronic distribution list of Corner
Post, send email to email@example.com
with SUBSCRIBE as the message. To remove your name, send email
with UNSUBSCRIBE as the message.