The Right to Food Must Include the Right to Farm

I saw a placard earlier this year around the University of Guelph declaring food is a right. Well, if that’s the case, then those who produce food better have rights too, rights that are shared with the public, clearly understood and widely accepted.

A step in that direction takes place May 14, 2013, at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre in Guelph, when the university’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Food and Agricultural Policy presents “Exploring Rural Land Use: Issues, Institutions and Change.”

Addressing questions around land use highlights what might be the most fundamental issue in farming. Land is the major asset for many farmers. In fact, in Ontario, farmland accounts for roughly 60 per cent of farm assets.

But from there, it gets complicated. Rural land use and property rights involve everything from energy production and aggregate extraction to recreation and aboriginal treaties…not to mention farming.

Prof. Brady Deaton Jr., from Guelph’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, says property rights influence acceptable land uses. Acceptable uses influence economic performance and spatial growth patterns. And on it goes, all because of land.

People don’t really understand how agricultural land values affect Canadians, either. They get it, sort of – land values go up, and so do food prices, eventually.

But Farm Credit Canada says factors such as a strong agricultural economy, low interest rates, growing world food demand and higher commodity prices drove the average value of Canadian farm land up 10 per cent, just during the second half of 2010. When food prices rise a few tenths of a per cent, people ring alarm bells. So what does a 10 per cent jump in land prices mean to this scenario?

People want to know. And at the land issues discussion, they’ll get a chance to ask about this and other land-related matters on their minds. Register at


Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy


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