Have Any Questions? support@hezekiaholuwasanmifarms.com

Rate Of Farmland Loss In Canada More Than Triples

The loss of farmland on P.E.I. is accelerating at a rate not seen in 50 years — and farmers fear there’s not enough being done to rein in the rapid changes.

Statistic Canada’s last census of agriculture, which took a snapshot of the industry in 2021, shows a 12.3 per cent loss of farmland since 2016.

“I was certainly surprised at the magnitude of the drop,” said Donald Killorn, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

“We have certainly seen a steady decline over the past 30 years but the pace seems to be increasing.”

The loss of agricultural land is an issue across Canada, but P.E.I. saw the biggest jump in that loss between the last two censuses.

Over the previous three censuses, from 2006 to 2016, P.E.I. showed an average loss of 3.6 per cent of its farmland every five years. Since 2001, more than 20 per cent of the province’s agricultural land has been lost.

If the current rate continues, half of the farmland the province had in 2021 will be gone before 2050.

The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture has been lobbying for better protection for farmland, says Donald Killorn. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
While Statistics Canada keeps tabs on the loss of farmland, no one is tracking where it is going. Farmers could be allowing the land to return to forest, or it could be going to residential or commercial development.

But Killorn doesn’t believe the answer lies in farmers allowing fields to go back to forest.

P.E.I.’s disappearing farmland
Brian Higgins explores the reasons P.E.I. is losing farmland at a rate we haven’t seen since the 1970s. If the current rate continues, half of the farmland the province had in 2021 will be gone before 2050.
“There’s quite a bit of demand for residential development, cottage development,” he said.

“We’re seeing a lot of change in the coastal region. Farmers are taking the opportunity to develop those lands into cottage property, as well around the city of Charlottetown. I think quite a bit of our farmland is being converted into subdivisions.”

Beef farmer Dennis Hogan, chair of the P.E.I. Cattle Producers Association, has seen it on his own farm.

Beef cattle in a barn
There is not a lot of profit in beef farming, says Dennis Hogan. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
“Some land that I farmed, or rented, was then put up for sale and a lot of it was bought by somebody to subdivide it and turn it into a housing development,” he said.

It put Hogan in a difficult position — he suddenly had less land to grow feed for his cattle, and land

doesn’t come as cheaply as it used to. Farmland that would have gone for $2,500 to $3,000 an acre 10 years ago now costs three times as much.

‘We can’t just make stuff up,’ says forestry expert on management practices
“For a beef farmer to justify paying that amount for an acre of land, it doesn’t really make any sense. It kind of puts the beef farmer at a disadvantage,” he said.

“Some of this land is being turned into subdivisions, and they obviously can pay more money for that land because there’s more profit in selling it for a house lot than growing crops to feed cattle on it.”

A normal part of urbanization
UPEI Prof. Josh MacFadyen, an environmental historian, has studied farming on the Island as far back as the early 19th century.

His study shows farming growing with the population through the 19th century, then declining with modernization through the 20th century.

The last drop as large as the decline seen in 2021 was 50 years earlier, in 1971, when a census of agriculture showed a 13.3 per cent drop.

Josh MacFadyen in front of a large computer screen with a map on it.
It appears to be suburban growth and ribbon development that are eating up farmland, says UPEI Prof. Josh MacFadyen. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
While it’s difficult to measure, MacFadyen connects the recent loss of farmland to urbanization. And the 2021 census did show more Islanders living in urban areas than rural areas for the first time.

“The biggest part is suburban growth, and that’s a pretty normal part of urbanization,” said MacFadyen.

Angus Drive access road to proceed, paving the way for 3rd roundabout in East Royalty
“We also have the, I think problematic, reality of ribbon development or strip development out along long, long roads without much of a plan or a process to encourage people to live closer together.”

This urbanization corresponds with some of the most rapid population growth P.E.I. has ever seen. In recent years, the Island has regularly been the fastest-growing province in the country.

P.E.I. will see more action on housing ‘once the snow’s gone,’ says minister

Land matters
Concerns about the loss of agricultural land predate the latest census of agriculture.

In July 2021, the Land Matters Advisory Committee tabled its final report, entitled The Time is Now, in the P.E.I. Legislature.

P.E.I. land-use plan still years away, committee hears
13 recommendations made to change P.E.I. land policies in government report
One of the main themes was the protection of resource land, which encompassed farmland and woodlots.

The report noted the development of 90 per cent of the land on P.E.I. was within provincial jurisdiction, but the province has no zoning scheme or development plan, putting building permits and land-use decisions on an entirely ad hoc basis.

In an update last June, a legislature committee was told implementing a province-wide land-use plan was years away.

In recognition of the time it would take to develop such a plan, the Land Matters report made the following recommendation:

“That the provincial government immediately implement province-wide interim regulations to further regulate subdivision and development in areas without an official plan until a province-wide land use planning framework is adopted.”

Locking in farmland
The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture continues to lobby the provincial government to implement this recommendation.

“We’d like to see the government classify agricultural land as resource land and then make it quite onerous to change the classification on the land,” said Killorn.

“The government hasn’t yet taken our recommendations on how to manage this issue.”

The provincial government did not offer up a spokesperson in response to an interview request by CBC News, instead saying in an email response that protecting agricultural land is a priority for the province.

The provincial government says protecting agricultural land is a priority, as the industry is a key driver of local economies and communities. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)
“The Department of Agriculture and Land has been and continues to work towards addressing the recommendations made in the Land Matters Final Report,” the email said.

“Currently, the Land Division is going through an exciting modernization that includes new services, as well as new staffing positions to help with both high permitting and land demands across P.E.I.”

When asked whether it was concerned about the recent trend, the province said it could not comment on statistics from a federal agency.

The province also noted that the issue is an important one, as the industry is a key driver of local economies and communities — a sentiment shared by beef farmer Dennis Hogan.

“Some action should be taken, yes,” said Hogan.

“We need farmland. Our number one industry is agriculture, and that should continue to be so.”

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-farmland-loss-1.6736714

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *