GUELPH – The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) are backing an Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) campaign against further loss of farmland to urban sprawl.
BFO cites 2016 Census of Agriculture data showing that valuable pastureland — extremely important to beef farmers — is being lost at a much higher rate than any other type of farmland. “These losses are unsustainable and given the anticipated population growth in Ontario, Canada and the world, further priority and action by government is needed to protect farmland in order to maintain a sufficient supply of locally grown food,” the organization says in a May 18 statement declaring support for the OFA initiative.
OFA says urban sprawl is threatening the viability and sustainability of productive farmland in Ontario — with approximately 175 acres of Ontario farmland lost daily to urban development, equivalent to five farms per week.
“BFO has long advocated for the protection of farmland, but more specifically marginal land that isn’t suitable to grow crops, but where beef cattle can thrive on healthy pasturelands,” shares Rob Lipsett, BFO President. “Every acre of pastureland that is protected contributes to soil health and provides a home for earthworms, wildlife and birds, not to mention the carbon storage ability of our tame grasslands.”
The impacts of farmland loss extends beyond concerns around food production capacity. BFO points out that farmland and pastures play a significant role in providing and maintaining habitat for pollinators and species at risk. Research has found the decline in cattle numbers in Canada is directly linked to the decline in grasslands, which leads to a decline in habitat for grassland birds like the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark who rely on these lands as much as ruminant livestock do. Pasturelands are also critical for oxygen production and carbon sequestration, maintaining and improving soil health, water cycling and biodiversity.
“The symbiotic relationship between grasslands and beef cattle has a measurable impact on the environment and the well-being of people,” explains Lipsett. “Ontario’s beef farmers continue to protect this important natural ecosystem, but we need government to work with us to manage urban development responsibly.”
BFO asserts that in addition to environmental benefits, beef farms and the broader beef cattle sector have a presence and economic impact in every county and district in Ontario, sustaining more than 61,000 jobs in primary production, processing and retail across the province. Ontario’s beef industry, and the farmland used to raise cattle and produce beef, is vitally important to the well-being and growth of families, businesses and communities.