Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) has taken a strong stand in favour or protecting farmland from urban development.
It is supporting a campaign by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario was the first general farm organization to propose strong measures to protect farmland, including a ban on lot severances for family retirement homes.
The lobbying arises in the face of a number of measures the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have taken that are friendly to urban developers and reduce environmental protections and farmland preservation.
Some of those measures were tacked into legislation for Ontario’s COVID-19 response.
You'd think that Premier Doug Ford would realize that his support came almost entirely from rural Ontario and certainly not from the largest cities where his development-company cronies seem to be pushing the move to gut farmland and environmental protections.
But nobody has accused him of being brilliant.
“BFO has long advocated for the protection of farmland, but more specifically marginal land that isn’t suitable to grow crops, but where beef cattle can thrive on healthy pasturelands,” said president Rob Lipsett.
“Every acre of pastureland that is protected contributes to soil health and provides a home for earthworms, wildlife and birds, not to mention the carbon storage ability of our tame grasslands.”
The impacts of the loss of farmland extends beyond concerns around food production capacity. Farmland and pastures play a significant role in providing and maintaining habitat for pollinators and species at risk, BFO said.
Research has found the decline in cattle numbers in Canada is directly linked to the decline in grasslands, which leads to a decline in habitat for grassland birds like the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark who rely on these lands as much as ruminant livestock do, BFO said.
Pasturelands are also critical for oxygen production and carbon sequestration, maintaining and improving soil health, water cycling and biodiversity.
“The symbiotic relationship between grasslands and beef cattle has a measurable impact on the environment and the well-being of people,” said Lipsett.
“Ontario’s beef farmers continue to protect this important natural ecosystem, but we need government to work with us to manage urban development responsibly.”
Agriculture is the backbone of our rural communities and is important to the quality of life of all Ontarians. In addition to environmental benefits, beef farms and the broader beef cattle sector have a presence and economic impact in every county and district in Ontario, sustaining more than 61,000 jobs in primary production, processing and retail across the province.
Ontario’s beef industry, and the farmland used to raise cattle and produce beef, is vitally important to the well-being and growth of families, businesses and communities, BFO said.