Why Protect Farmland?
Quite simply for good, healthy food. We all need to eat, and while our economy currently enjoys a food surplus and the ability to import, there is no guarantee that such will always be the case. There are other excellent reasons as well …
Farmland is Endangered
“It was nothing but farmland” — a good excuse to build. Or is it?
Our society is used to downplaying the value of farmland because we seem to have a lot of it. However, we are losing the equivalent of 175 acres of farmland each day to development. The world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion people by 2050, but by then Ontario will have lost more than 2 million acres. Does this make sense?
Municipal System “Pro-Development”
There are always good reasons for development: roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, homes, businesses. The building and maintenance of such infrastructure requires money. Municipalities have a tendency to be pro-development because growth brings in new property tax dollars; development charge fees; and upper-tier provincial/federal funding is generally driven by population. However, development is a catch-22 because population growth requires more and better roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, homes and businesses.
In the end, we must remember that all new growth/population needs to be serviced with fresh food and clean water too.
According to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, roughly 80,000 Ontarians make their living directly on farms and 718,000 Ontarians work in the agri-food industry. The farm sector sustains 164,000 jobs across Ontario with an expenditure on wages and salaries of $7 billion. These jobs contribute $3.4 billion in taxes. Ontario’s farm outputs contributed $22 billion in gross economic stimulus in 2009 with a net value of $10.7 billion. (source)
According to a 2016 York Region report Ontario’s agri-food system generates more than $177 billion in sales of primary agriculture, food and beverage processing, wholesaling, food services and retail food. Ontario’s agri-business industry created approximately 29,823 total full-time equivalent positions (direct, indirect and induced) in 2016.
The agri-food sector is roughly 6% of Ontario’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s significant.
In other words, Ontario’s farms are an industry worth preserving for economic value.
Feed the Future
When you take into account the current trend in food land loss and projections for the global population, ensuring an adequate amount of food will be a challenge.
According to Bronwynne Wilton, Farmland Preservation – Land for Future Generations, feeding the population will require multiple approaches. The effort will include minimizing food waste, increasing equity in food distribution, advanced technologies for crop efficiency, and having a stable and secure base of high-quality agricultural land.
Ontario’s farms are worth preserving to feed future generations.
More Than It Seems
Farmland is defined as any agricultural land capable of producing products such as grains, livestock feed, tender fruits and vegetables, and pasture for livestock.
It’s a sign of the times that farms are being used to produce new non-food products such as bioplastics, hemp, and marijuana for medicinal purposes. Farms are also being used for alternative energy production including biofuels, wind turbines and solar panels.
Soil is also more than it seems. Scientists have discovered a plethora of unknown and unexplored microorganisms in soil with uses waiting to be discovered.
It is wise to keep our options open for new technology and other developments by keeping our farms and farmland intact and viable.
People thrive with open space, recreation, clean air and water, wildlife habitat, historical character, community, spirituality — all a feature of agricultural community, and all good reasons to protect farmland and Mother Nature as a whole.
If Ontario can’t produce enough food to feed Ontarians, then we do not have food security. We have to rely on imports.
A reliance on imports means that we are at the mercy of other countries and they way they decide to produce food, no matter what kind of chemicals or processes we find disturbing.
Additionally, other countries are struggling to ensure that they have a food-secure future as well. We can’t guarantee that there will be enough food on the future world market that we would be able to import.
A Decision to Make
So we are at a crossroads:
Stay the course and watch food land gradually disappear?
Endeavour to value and protect our food land resources today?
The Volunteers of #FoodAndWaterFirst choose the latter path.