Farm groups ask Ontario’s government to pause on proposed Bill 97 changes

Fourteen of Ontario’s agriculture organizations are collectively asking the provincial government to pause forward momentum of the proposed Bill 97 and the Proposed Provincial Planning Statement.

“We stand in strong opposition to the 3 lot severances per farm parcel proposed in prime agricultural areas as well as other measures that weaken local farmland protection. We request that the limited circumstances permitting residential lot creation in prime agricultural areas under the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020, be retained in the new Proposed Provincial Planning Statement,” the groups write in an open letter.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture raised the alarm regarding the proposed changes beginning several weeks ago. Now, as Bill 97 is at the committee stage, more producer groups are raising their voices in opposition to the bill.

In addition to OFA, the letter is signed by National Farmers Union-Ontario, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission, Beef Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Sheep Farmers, Veal Farmers of Ontario, Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Farmland Trust, Turkey Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance.

The groups state that residential lot creation on farmland fragments the agricultural land base, and could increase conflict between neighbouring land uses. It may also inflate farmland prices and increase costs to municipalities.

“In addition, we have significant concerns regarding the speculative investment that this proposal will drive, resulting in farmland values that make farming even more unattainable for the next generation. Any policies that might open land for speculative purchase and investment need to be discouraged,” the groups say.

Further, the farm organizations cite the diligent work the industry has been doing to manage and mitigate conflict between farming and non-farming neighbours and positive advancements made to water protection through mechanisms such as the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) required for siting of livestock infrastructure, for example. Additional lot severances proposed will make it difficult or impossible for farmers to operate, expand and grow their farms, the group says.

Ontario contains some of Canada’s richest and most fertile farmland in a climate that can grow a diverse range of nutritious food. As a whole, the sector contributes $47 billion to Ontario’s annual GDP, and the groups say that these policy changes put the sustainability of that land and the food system it provides at great risk.

“Collectively, we seek your commitment to preserving Ontario’s farmland and specialty croplands across the province. The implications of Bill 97 and the Proposed Provincial Planning Statement for Ontario agriculture are significant and concerning for the agriculture and agri-food sector. These decisions will have long-term, intergenerational implications for Ontario farmers, food security, water resources and the agri-food economy,” the letter says.

We ask for the opportunity to work together with the government to develop a way forward to support and create the framework for needed housing and development while ensuring the long-term success and viability of the agriculture sector.”

Listen: Peggy Brekveld, president of OFA, explains why Bill 97 is negative for agriculture

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