Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ontario farmers unite to oppose urban expansion

Ontario’s three general farm organizations – the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario branch of the National Farmers Union – are all calling on the provincial government to freeze urban boundaries in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

They are joined by a dozen other Ontario farm organizations – a record-setting degree of agreement – in calling for the freeze.

The organizations count membership from about 52,000 farms and 78,000 farmers.

“The province needs to impose real boundaries on urban expansion, not more restrictions on farming,” says Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

“Hard municipal growth boundaries must be part of the solution to supporting agriculture in the GGH so we don’t pave over the region’s farmland and displace more farm families and farming communities,” he said.

The agriculture groups say that the province’s recently proposed changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt Plan fail to protect the majority of farmers and farmlands in the region from ongoing and poorly-planned urban sprawl.

They are concerned that the proposed new policy reinforces and enables status quo sprawl, making it difficult to see a future for local food and farming in the region.

 “Nothing is more fundamental to protecting farmland and achieving the goals of the Growth Plan than freezing urban and rural settlement boundaries,” said CFFO President Clarence Nywening.

“This holds municipalities accountable to meeting their growth targets by using urban lands more efficiently and supporting denser, transit-oriented developments rather than allowing councils to be passive and complacent about sprawl.”

But when it comes to numbers, there are more city people seeking affordable housing than there are farmers seeking to stop cities from expanding with new subdivisions.