The Christian Farmers considers the preservation of prime farmland in Ontario to be essential to the long-term success of farmers in this province, both for this and future generations. The Greenbelt that was put in place in 2005 is in many ways the prototype for what could be a successful land-use policy for agriculture throughout the entire province. However, it must be demonstrated that the Greenbelt Plan has had a positive impact not just for agriculture land, but also for the farmers that are working the land.When we consider the Greenbelt Plan, its primary functions are the following:
- Protect against the loss and fragmentation of the agriculture land base and support agriculture as the predominant land use.
- Give permanent protection to the natural heritage and water resource systems that sustain ecological and human health and that form the environmental framework around which major urbanization in South-central Ontario will be organized, and
- Provide for a diverse range of economic and social activities associated with rural communities, agriculture tourism, recreation and resource uses.
With those three criteria in mind, a number of government ministries and stakeholders are currently looking at determining the performance measures that will judge whether this land-use plan was a success or a failure at meeting these objectives.
From the perspective of the Christian Farmers Federation there are several reasons to see the Greenbelt succeed. First, we view the long-term preservation of our highest quality farmland as essential to a competitive agriculture sector in this province. Second, long-term trends point towards rising transportation costs and shortening supply lines for food, which increases the need for food production close to home. Third, ensuring that a country is able to feed itself if serious disruptions to trade flows were to occur, even for a brief period of time, should be a high priority for government.
These are good reasons to support such a policy, but at the end of the day, farmers have to be able to prosper within this regulated landscape. The province needs to be sure that this approach to preserving our best land is not inadvertently regulating our farmers out of business. The performance measures must include ways to measure the signs of prosperity, from new building projects to net farm income.
The Greenbelt Plan is an important step in protecting our most valuable farmland. An even surer step to preserving farmland is to ensure that farmers are able to profit and innovate within the protected countryside.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. It can be heard weekly on CKNX Wingham and CFCO Chatham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org/index.html. The CFFO is supported by 4,350 farm families across Ontario.
This CFFO Commentary first appeared on November 20, 2009 and is reprinted with their permission.