I read with interest your article on the Greenbelt. Mr. Eng is correct and one merely has to read the legislative debates on the Greenbelt, the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, the Oak Ridge Morraine Act, the various Conservation Authorities Act (regulations), the Conservation Lands Act, etc., to see that all of these Acts/entities have been created for provincial "land banking" and recreation.
None of these Acts, saving the Greenbelt, were to be implemented on private property without expropriation and fair compensation. And yet the Greenbelt has done nothing for the true protection of small farms, in Ontario. If nothing else it has made farming all the more difficult because of the, as "Paul Mistele, called it the most “draconian legislation” farmers in the province had ever faced."
How do I know this, you may ask? I have read the BC Agricultural Land Reserve report, produced in 2009. "The rationale for denying citizens the full use of 4.7 million hectares of property has shifted over time, from rescuing the “family farm” to preserving “green space” and, most recently, protecting the “local” food supply. The costs of this social engineering, which include soaring housing prices resulting from a scarcity of land for development and the incalculable loss of property owners’ economic freedom, are substantial."
As for the 100km diet, the report continues with "Champions of the ALR claim that the land use controls are necessary to ensure a “local” food supply. But BC consumers have shown an undeniable preference for greater choice. The vast majority of BC consumers buy great quantities of imports and base their purchase decisions on a range of legitimate factors, including price, variety, and convenience, rather than product origin alone. Indeed, after three decades of the ALR regime, BC farmers produce just one-third of the food needed in the province to meet the standards of a “healthy” diet (British Columbia, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, 2006)."
There is also the issue of "homelessness" in the urban centers. Again, one only has to look to the BC report to see the effects or restriction on land use, in Ontario. "The land scarcity created by the ALR has rendered Vancouver housing the most “severely unaffordable” of any major city in the 265 metropolitan markets across Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, as analyzed by Wendell Cox and Hugh Pavletich (2009) in their fifth annual International Housing Affordability Survey. Only Honolulu, Hawaii, and Australia’s Gold and Sunshine Coasts were costlier. Indeed, according to the survey, all of Canada’s “severely unaffordable” markets were in British Columbia, and none of the “affordable” markets were located in the province." And with the cost of real estate in the urban centers this situation, in Ontario, will only continue to escalate.
As expressed in your article, small farms have only decreased, in the Greenbelt area; this was predicted and established in BC with the A.L.R. as it continues to state:
"Contrary to the intent of the ALR’s architects, the land reserve has not halted the decline in the number of BC farms or the loss of “family farms.” Nor has it nurtured a new generation of farmers. In fact, the number of farms in British Columbia has declined 9% in the past decade (British Columbia, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, 2007). The proportion of owner-operators also is falling: between 1986 and 2006, the total amount of BC farmland rented or leased grew nearly 35% (Statistics Canada, 2008d)." And in the Metro Vancouver area "there has been a 66% decline in the number of farmers under the age of 35 over the past 10 years". This is what we are already experiencing.
What is needed, in Ontario, is not "land banking" for recreation, as demanded by the provincial government, but a reasonable economic plan by the province if they wish agriculture to either stay the same (with the decreases) or to grow. A farmer merely making 10% of his/her income from farming does not a farmer make. So what can be done for the agricultural community to a) protect farmland and b) ensure that agriculture is a viable occupation?
Like the province, William the Conqueror, didn't get it right, with the Greenbelt. Dictating what land will be farmland and what will not be farmland does not create a sustainable production of food; it merely creates anarchy. The same can be said for the 100km diet.
Firstly, the farmer should be paid what it costs for production, plus a profit. Grocers are making out with enormous profits, one merely has to look at any of the larger grocers financials to see this. If more profit went to the smaller farms, they would be sustainable.
Secondly, the regulation, from Endangered Species, to the Clean Water Act is removing land from production. Why would a farmer, 5 miles from an urban wellhead, be told he cannot farm his land? This isn't for the protection of a municipal water source, this is merely a land grab.
Why would anyone expect a farmer to protect ground-hog holes because it might be habitat for badgers? A 16 foot restriction is placed around this habitat so that if there could be a badger in the area, it will have a food source. Then there is the elk situation in the North.
Ministry of Natural Resources has imported elk from the West and has informed farmers that they cannot protect their crops or their livestock from the elk. Are any of these measures protecting our food source? No. Are any of these measures protecting the economic feasibility of the Agricultural community? No.
And are any of these measures protecting species? Not really, because any farmer who has seen any of these animals on their property, for the protection of their land and financial stability, will destroy these animals. Even with the fines being anywhere up to $250,000, if they don't do something they would lose their farm anyways without compensation. It's a catch 22 for the agricultural community.
Then there is the Ministry of Agriculture's "means" of determining what will or will not be farmland, in the official plans. It boils down to the drive past and a "pick and choose" percentage. This has been seen in the last few years and makes a mockery of the process and the so-called protection that just isn't there.
It is my suggestion that the President of the OFA, if he is truly concerned about the ability of famers and agricultural land, to read the BC report, and to start actually working toward opening up the North for urban growth: demanding true value for products from our small family farms ensuring they remain viable for future generations: demand that there be the ability for the province to purchase development rights from farmers, on truly agricultural lands, ensuring succession from parent to child: demanding that the majority of regulation be removed, under so many of the purported pieces of "conservation" legislation, which is merely created for recreation, as in the NEC, the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridge Morraine, Endangered Species, etc.: and demand that MNR remove the imported elk from the North. This is what any person truly concerned with the lives and financial ability of those he represents would do…not cave to government dictates.
If a farmer wants to protect his farmland, he has various avenues he can, himself, follow which does not include meddling in other person's property or rights. And if he truly thinks that legislation is the way to go, he has forgotten what put him on the land in the first place…freedom to be independent; freedom strive for his own financial security and freedom from the urban restrictions…basically freedom itself.