By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
On Tuesday, February 21st, I proudly introduced my first Private Members’ Bill (PMB). The PMB is entitled Bill 62, An Act to provide for the development of a farmland and arable land strategy and an advisory committee on farmland and arable land.” This legislation is close to my heart because it’s my first, but mainly because we can’t make more land. Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland each day.
So that we feed ourselves, we must cease this constant subtraction of arable land. Anyone who has chatted with me in the past six months has often heard me passionately raise concerns about this. We can’t make more land appear out of the blue, so we must protect and manage our productive land. And protecting Ontario’s farmland is my proposed legislation’s main thrust—time for the rubber to hit the dirt road.
My PMB calls for the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs to develop a strategic plan to protect Ontario’s farmland and arable land from development, aggregate mining, and the effects of fluctuating commodity prices and the availability of vacant land. It also mandates the establishment of the Farmland and Arable Land Advisory Committee to advise the Minister. Members of the public will comprise the Committee rather than politicians.
In short, my legislation will help prevent further land degradation and protect farmland and arable land for future Ontarians and Canadians for many years. Protection is essential to ensure short-term and long-term food security for Ontario.
The Act would also establish the composition of the Farmland and Arable Land Advisory Committee. A committee of members of the Legislative Assembly would select members of the Committee. The Committee would be required to provide a report of its findings, advice, and recommendations to the Minister at least every six months. The Minister would be required to table the report in the Legislative Assembly.
Since introducing this legislation, I’ve received a great deal of support from the people of Haldimand-Norfolk. Getting this feedback after working hard on something you are passionate about is very satisfying. And it’s easy to be passionate about saving farmland when you think about the statistics the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) lists on its website.
The OFA reference the loss of 319 acres of Ontario farmland per day, but they also equate that to losing the equivalent of nine family farms each week. And they point out that those 319 acres can produce more than 23.5 million apples, 1.2 million bottles of Ontario VQA wine, or 37.1 million strawberries. They put it in terms of everyday items to which we relate daily.
Ontario agriculture and food annually contributes $47 billion to the province’s economy and employs almost one million Ontarians. If we don’t protect our food-producing land, we will also send shockwaves across our economy with the loss of STEM, labour, technological jobs and even damage rural main streets.
And who can forget the supply chain issues Ontarians experienced during COVID-19? I shudder to think we would do anything further to harm our domestic supply chain and local food production. We can’t afford to do this to ourselves and future generations.
In this spirit and passion, I look forward to receiving all-party support in the Ontario Legislature for Bill 62.
Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk