Vanthof: Time to take "saving farmland" seriously!
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO - Wednesday 26 October 2022
Private Members’ Public Business - Agri-food industry
Mr. John Vanthof: "It’s an honour to be able to rise today and speak to the motion from the member from Brantford–Brant, specifically about food security and agriculture. We are fully in favour of the motion, as far as it goes. It brings up many good issues. Farmers do feed cities. Farmers also need cities, if you think about it. They need customers, and they want customers.
There are several issues that I’m going to bring up in this short time. A couple of people brought up the emissions—by the federal government. I’m not supporting the federal government, but it’s not a 30% reduction in use of fertilizer, it’s a 30% reduction in emissions from fertilizer, and that’s a crucial, crucial difference.
What farmers need to do in Ontario is to show the good things they’re already doing, that they’ve already gone a long way farther down that road than the federal government realizes. That’s where we need to go, and when some people mischaracterize it as a 30% reduction in fertilizer use, they’re actually hurting the agriculture sector, not helping it. It’s a 30% reduction in emissions, and you know what?
Farmers want their fertilizer to stay in the ground to feed the crops. You don’t want it going in the air or in the water because that wastes your money, but it also hurts the environment and hurts other people. That’s very crucial to remember. I heard it today: a 30% reduction in fertilizer use. That was incorrect. But we need to do a much better job of explaining what we’re doing—a much better job.
The one thing that this motion doesn’t talk about is, yes, we are losing 320 acres a day of the world’s best farmland. It’s being lost to development, and it’s happening right now every day. You can get as efficient as you want, and we have incredible increases in productivity, but if you allow the greatest gift that this province has ever had, which is our farmland in southern Ontario, to continue to be paved over at that rate, you’re not talking about food security for future generations. You’re talking about a quick buck for the current generation. That’s what you’re talking about.
This motion goes part of the way, but we need to go a lot further on saving farmland. We really need to look at that. There will be people who will say—and I’m from northern Ontario, and northern Ontario is a great place to farm, but you can’t just clear two acres in northern Ontario and expect that to replace one acre here. Because anybody who thinks that—or three acres or four acres. There’s a reason why the farmland in southern Ontario is the best in the world. You’re surrounded by the Great Lakes. It’s got a climate that can’t be equalled, and as the climate changes, it will still be protected. We have to realize how important that is.
Is this a good motion? Is it supportable? Yes, but it needs to go a lot further.
We actually have to take saving farmland seriously and not just try to avoid the subject by talking about the other great things in agriculture. There are lots of great things in agriculture. But if we’re making decisions for future generations and future farmers and for farmers now, we have to be careful with the gift that we’ve been given.
Thank you, Speaker."