In Ontario, we are losing farmland at an alarming rate of 175 acres a day, largely to urban sprawl. This is the equivalent of 5 family farms per week.
Ontario farms are an important part of our economy, local food systems and our food security.
To protect local and sustainable food, Ontario must preserve good land for farming, restore soil health, and support climate-smart agriculture.
A Green economy will also mean:
- Everyone has access to humane, healthy, and low impact food and enough money to buy it.
- Local farmers can earn a good income growing food using sustainable practices.
- Urban land grows food wherever possible.
- Farmlands, green space and community gardens support pollinators and other wildlife.
Key metrics for local and sustainable food will include:
- GHG from Ontario agriculture.
- The percentage of organic matter in agricultural soils.
- The percentage of food eaten (dietary intake) that is plant-based.
- The percentage of food eaten that is grown in Ontario.
- The percentage of urban residents living more than 400 meters from a healthy food outlet.
- The percentage of residents who go hungry.
- The percentage of food discarded.
The Green Party’s key policies for achieving local and sustainable food will include:
What is an offset?
In this plan, offsets can be counted only for processes that take carbon back out of the atmosphere and lock it away for at least 100 years. Rigorous definitions of offsets are critical to the legitimacy and effectiveness of any net-zero commitment.
Biochar is a promising example, because it is made from plants that take carbon from the atmosphere. Charring the material through pyrolysis and mixing it into agricultural soils makes it durable, breaking down very slowly over centuries and improving soil in the process.
Stop food waste:
- Ban food waste from landfills or incinerators.
- Treat surplus food as a valuable resource. First, use it to feed people, then animals. Support a robust organics management sector that recovers or recycles what cannot be fed to people or animals into healthy soils and biogas.
- Inform consumers and producers about food choices and how to reduce food waste.
- Encourage food conservation and circular economy uses of food industry by-products.
Support climate-smart farming:
- Rebuild agricultural extension programs and hire soil-health focused agronomists.
- Reward climate-smart farmers – e.g. for rebuilding soil health with cover crops and with rotational grazing of livestock – through crop and livestock insurance discounts and other incentives.
- Shift program dollars from supporting corporate industrial agriculture to supporting soil health agriculture.
- Shift program dollars from supporting intensive, confined animal agriculture to regenerative animal agriculture.
- Incent on-farm composting and/or anaerobic digestion with biogas recovery of agricultural wastes such as manure.
- Protect farmers against losses for up to ten years as they transition from chemical agriculture to soil-health agriculture.
- Support innovation through grants for low- risk soil management projects.
- Recognize offsets for permanent, additional carbon sequestration in healthy soils, e.g. biochar.
- Establish a certification system for food grown with organic and regenerative agriculture practices.
- Monitor the implementation and effectiveness of environmental farm plans. Encourage low-carbon food packaging.
- Discourage high-carbon food by showing consumers the carbon footprint of meat and dairy products and all processed food.
Protect the land we all depend on.
- Pay farmers and other land holders for verified ecosystem services.
- Keep farmland as food land that farmers can afford to buy.
- Permanently protect prime agricultural land from being lost to non-agricultural uses, such as sprawl, highways and gravel mining
- Provide space, capacity, training and start-up funds for more people to grow some of their own food, including in urban community and rooftop gardens, on power line rights-of-way and around public and commercial buildings.
- Pay Indigenous land guardians to plant and tend food-producing (fruit and nut) trees in cities.
- Provide start-up funding for community-owned healthy food markets in urban food deserts.
- Ban routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, to preserve antibiotics for use in human health.
- Tax unhealthy food, such as sugary pop, and use the money to provide healthy food options for low income families.
- Require organic food claims to be certified accurate.
- Encourage plant-based diets.
- Fund healthy farm-to-table food school lunch programs, food growing, food literacy and food waste diversion.
- Ensure that those receiving public income support have enough money to buy fresh food. Shamefully, due to cuts from successive provincial governments, people receiving benefits from Ontario’s social assistance programs now live in a greater depth of poverty than a generation ago, with little way out.
- Enhance animal welfare standards for animal agriculture.
- Establish a certification system for sustainable animal products, e.g. beef produced humanely without antibiotics by intensive rotational grazing of native prairie.
- Make plant-based options available at meals paid for by public funds.
- Encourage local food production by requiring public institutions to meet minimum local food purchasing targets for their food services.
- Support direct relationships between farmers, artisans and consumers through farmers markets and community supported agriculture.
- Provide tax incentives for local food and beverage manufacturers who purchase inputs grown by local farmers.
- Eliminate property tax penalties for farmers with small scale, value added production facilities on farm.
- Support local food hubs, wholesale markets and local food supply chains.
- Support urban agriculture (indoors and outdoors), including use of local greenspace and green roofs to grow food.