According to Statistics Canada, over half a million acres of productive (class 1-3) farmland was “settled” between 2000 and 2011. This “settled area” on dependable agricultural land grew by 19 percent in Canada, with the largest increase happening in southern Ontario and Quebec.

The loss of farmland isn’t a new phenomenon (the last time people in the country outnumbered those in cities was sometime in the 1920s), but the rate at which farmland is being lost development has ramped up. Some regions have already implemented tight restrictions on development of farmland; B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve is one example.

In other areas, including much of the Prairies, the scarcity of farmland is less obvious and so it seems little thought is given to urban sprawl.

Protecting farmThumbs Up Thumbs Down Finalland can have unintended consequences, of course. Those who farm within a greenbelt or land reserve are limited in the value they can leverage out of their land, and usually farm under more restrictions. While protecting farmland is important, not everyone really wants another layer of rules and regulations hovering over the farm business, especially as many farm families tackle the tough job of funding a viable succession plan (home acreages, anyone?).

And that brings us to this week’s Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down question, where we take a complicated topic and make it as black and white as possible. Have your say in this week’s poll: Should current zoning of agricultural land be made permanent?


2 thoughts on “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down — Should Farmland Status be Made Permanent?

  1. I grew up on a farm but now live in downtown Toronto. While the Toronto city core embraces building up and revitalizing industrial land I see far too much expansion into arable land on the part of sub-urban communities and small cities. We drive through ample “urban-zoned” areas of Southern Ontario that lie abandoned while new homes go up in farmer’s fields. We don’t do enough to foster food security in Canada; we take for granted that someone will always be there to feed us.

  2. If you freeze farmland from development, it devalues the property as there are no longer any competing uses. Unless the farmer starts with a pool of capital from outside of farming, most farmers require the value of their real estate to establish collateral from which to get an operating loan to run their farm and ranch operations. If you shrink the pool from which they can draw from (artificially freeze farm land at depressed values), you limit their opportunity to grow their ag operations, which in turn shinks the demand for further farm land purchase and farm expansion. This is a recipe to shrink agriculture, not grow it. Be careful of good intentions without considering the economic impacts of manipulating the free market. Use Saskatchewan as an example, before outside investment was allowed in, Saskatchewan real estate was in the doldrums and young farmers were exiting the province in droves. They opened the province up for investment, and now look at the ag growth in that province. Beware of good intentions when it comes to other people’s property.

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