Ontario’s farm organizations band together to protest Bill 97 and prime Ag. lot parcelling

Ontario's farm organizations and commodity advocacy groups are calling on the province to walk back Bill 97. (Ontario Farmland Trust photo)



Ontario farmers concerned that Ontario’s new Bill 97, the Helping Homebuyers, Protecting Tenants Act 2023, will lead to further fragmentation of precious farm lands are being asked to register their opposition by way of letters sent from farm organization websites.

The National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O), Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), along with numerous commodity and agricultural organizations, are united in their opposition to Bill 97 and the proposed Provincial Planning Statement (PPS).

In a statement released Friday, the farm organizations are urging farmers to tell their MPPs and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, they oppose Bill 97 and the proposed Provincial Planning Statement, and that the government should abandon its proposal to allow for the severing of farmland parcels, in recognition of the current and future value of agriculture to the province’s economy, to long-term food security, and long-term vibrant rural communities.

Wheat harvest in South Marysburgh. (Gazette file photo)

According to StatsCan, Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland per day and, in the last 35 years, the Ontario Farmland Trust says the province has seen 18 per cent of agricultural lands, or 2.8 million acres, swallowed up by a combination of urban sprawl and aggregate mining.

The Ontario government’s proposed Bill and Provincial Planning Statement (PPS) will further weaken farmland protections by allowing up to three lot severances per farm parcel in prime agricultural areas province-wide for residential uses. It also weakens important protections for specialty crop areas.

“This legislation will have an impact on all Ontario farmers now and in the future. It will fragment and permanently remove farmland from productive agricultural use, and limit farm business growth,” stated Peggy Brekveld, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “Ontario’s productive farmland is a scarce resource, making up less than five per cent of all the land in the province. Agricultural production is the most valued and best use of this land.”

“Directing growth to settlement areas, urban and rural is better for both agriculture and municipalities,” added Max Hansgen, President, National Farmers Union – Ontario. “Housing needs can be met in serviced settlement areas on a much smaller land base, reducing farmland loss and potential land use conflicts while ensuring efficient use of municipal infrastructure investments.”

“As farm leaders and organizations, we have worked diligently to manage and mitigate conflict between farming and non-farming neighbours in all types of agriculture,” says Ed Scharringa, President of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. “The proposed changes will exacerbate conflict between farming and non-farming neighbours for all aspects of farming including application of crop nutrition and crop protection products, wildlife control and more.”