Wynne Introduces Farms Forever Program to Gain Rural Support

Wynne visits farm to talk about support for agriculture

PARIS, Ont. -- Premier Kathleen Wynne donned a pair of Liberal red rubber boots Tuesday to visit a farm in one of the party's few rural ridings, announcing support for the agriculture industry if they're re-elected.

Wynne said she would introduce a $40-million-a-year fund over 10 years to support the food processing industry, which she said would help farmers buy machinery and equipment.

"We know that if we can partner with businesses and make sure that they have the support that they need and that they can grow and that they can market their products we know that we can grow the food processing and the agri-food industry generally in the province," she said in Paris, Ont., in Liberal Dave Levac's Brant riding.

The money would come from a $2.5-billion "jobs and prosperity" fund aimed at providing government grants to businesses, which was part of the Liberal budget that failed to pass.

Many of the province's rural ridings are held by Progressive Conservatives, but Wynne suggested funding for the agriculture sector isn't just about those seats.

"Yes, it's in an election campaign and of course we are all campaigning, but whether my political career ... is advanced by doing this or not, it is absolutely important to the future of this province that we have a strong agriculture and food industry," she said.

Wynne admitted last year during her bid to become Liberal leader that the government's popularity has suffered in rural Ontario, partly over industrial wind turbines.

Wynne's own seat is a Toronto riding, but the premier also took the post of minister of agriculture and food. When asked about trying to shed a downtown Toronto image, Wynne married urban and rural with a personal anecdote about her grandmother who grew up on a farm and didn't have money to go to university.

"If kids who grow up on farms want to go to university and then come back I want the government to be there for them to help them do that," she said. "That's not about being a rural kid, it's not about being an urban kid. That's about being a kid who wants to have opportunity. That's what our government is about."

Wynne also spoke about a Liberal "farms forever" program, which would be aimed at protecting agricultural land close to urban centres.

"We recognize that preserving farmland is a very important part of our responsibility and that's what the farms forever program would be about," she said.

"The other thing that I have heard as minister of agriculture and food is the need for support for young farmers who want to get into farming, either to be able to buy their family's land or to be able to break into farming even if they haven't been part of a farm family."

Under the program, a landowner could request an easement to prevent non-agricultural development from taking place on the land even if it is sold.

Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli, whose riding is in northern Ontario, waited outside the farm Wynne visited to criticize the Liberal platform, which he suggested is not costed out, though he didn't offer specific criticisms of the agriculture fund.

"When you're making an agricultural announcement that involves funding you're basing it on funding you don't have," he said. Fedeli scoffed at the notion that the Tories are in danger of losing rural ridings.

"I don't think the Liberals are making gains in rural Ontario whatsoever."

Ontario voters go to the polls June 12.

Posted on CTV News website May 20, 2014

We can’t eat subdivisions, quarries, highways or pipelines

Challenge all Political Parties to put Food & Water First

Orangeville -- Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, has challenged the leaders of Ontario’s other parties to sign the Food and Water First Pledge.

“We can’t eat subdivisions, quarries, highways, or pipelines,” says Schreiner. “Aggregates just aren’t very nutritious.”

Schreiner, who grew up on a farm, was an early champion of the local food movement. He was the first political leader in Ontario to speak out against the Melancthon Mega Quarry.

“It breaks my heart to see the Ontario government fail to protect prime farmland. 350 acres of farmland a day bulldozed or paved over. It’s an unforgivable loss of such a vital resource.”

Losing farmland not only threatens our ability to feed ourselves, it also jeopardizes our economy. The food and farming sector employs over 700,000 people, contributes over $30 billion to Ontario’s economy and is essential to our quality of life.

“My top priority is to put food and water first,” says Karen Wallace, GPO candidate in Dufferin-Caledon. “I’m running to protect prime farmland and source water regions.”

While Queen’s Park sits on its hands, citizens have taken action to protect food and water. Schreiner is the first and only provincial party leader to sign the Food and Water First pledge to permanently protect Ontario’s class 1 farmland and source water regions.

“After all the hard work of citizens like Karen to stop the Mega Quarry, it is unacceptable that there is no legislation to prevent the another mega quarry from threatening our farmland and water,” says Schreiner.

Posted on NorthumbelandView.ca
May 14, 2014

What is water worth?

Farmland is parched. Companies are worried. The global demand for water will soon outstrip supply. What's the solution? Simple, say some business leaders and economists: Make people pay more for the most precious commodity on earth.


FORTUNE -- Sarah Woolf's 1,200-acre farm in Cantua Creek, Calif., sits in the Central Valley, which runs in a narrow stretch more than 400 miles through the middle of the state, covering an area about the size of West Virginia. Hemmed in by the Cascade Range to the north, the Tehachapi to the south, and the Sierra Nevada to the east, the valley has long been one of the most bountiful farming regions in the country. Though it has less than 1% of America's farmland, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, it supplies a quarter of the nation's food.

And for the past three years it has suffered the worst drought in almost anyone's memory. In January, with California's river and reservoir levels at record (or near record) lows, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. By March the drought was so severe that the state and federal governments, which both run systems that transport water from the Sierras to the valley, cut off supplies to farmers. That left many of them with two unpleasant options: Buy water on the spot market for up to four times the normal price or cut back sharply on planting.


June 2014 Provincial Election


Ontario voters will be going to the polls in June and Food & Water First is ready!

While the four parties campaign for our support, we’re going to be pressing all the candidates to stand up for this province’s Class 1 farmland and source water regions.


The politicians will be asked to put Food & Water First. We’ll have further details in the coming days.

In the meantime, visit our Sign Depot page and plant a lawn sign.

The campaign for Ontario’s vital agricultural and water resources is underway!

By the Food and Water First News Team

OMB rules against Hunder gravel pit

Keri Martin Vrbanac is ecstatic.

Martin Vrbanac, president of the Conestogo Winterbourne Residents Association, was still flying high nearly a week after finding out that the Ontario Municipal Board has ruled against the proposed Hunder gravel pit.

The battle against the gravel pit, which took seven years of effort from the residents’ association, ended abruptly last week with the OMB ruling, although the applicant, Bob Hunsberger, still has the chance to appeal.

“We are thrilled,” said Martin Vrbanac, when contacted by phone. “Absolutely thrilled. It was the longest seven years of my life.”
Martin Vrbanac became involved a few short days after her youngest child was born, when she received an email about the proposed pit, which would be located between the communities of Conestogo and Winterbourne.

The proposal, if approved, would permit an above groundwater table aggregate operation on an 88.3 hectare parcel of land, with the extraction taking up 62.1 hectares. The proposal also included a plan to recycle concrete and asphalt as an accessory use on the lands on Hunsberger Road.

A few residents decided to get together to talk about what could be done about the proposal, including Martin Vrbanac.

She recalls her husband, John, telling her that she didn’t have enough time to get involved, and that she should quit the group before it became really active. By the time she left the meeting, however, she had been chosen president of the residents’ group.
She didn’t realize what she was getting into.
“We had no idea,” said Martin Vrbanac. “It was very time-consuming.
“We had endless hours of meetings, planning, meeting with lawyers, meeting with the township, and meeting with the community,” said Martin Vrbanac. “It was actually a relief when it went to the OMB. Now we would finally get a decision.”

The decision rendered by OMB vice-chairman Susan de Avellar Schiller, looked at a number of issues, including the proximity of the gravel pit to the neighbouring residential areas, the cumulative impact from both the proposed Hunder pit and the already approved Jigs Hollow pit, as well as the loss of prime agricultural land that would come as a result of the gravel pit.

Township mayor Todd Cowan felt that these were important factors in the overall decision against the Hunder pit.
“The board found that the combined impact of both (pits) would be a negative impact,” said Cowan. “There has to be some cumulative impact.”

Cowan said he was thrilled at the decision rendered by the OMB, and he pointed to other successes the township has enjoyed in other gravel pit applications of concern.

For instance, the Capital Paving application for the community of West Montrose was withdrawn, after the township embarked on a number of measures to protect the West Montrose community, including the West Montrose Cultural Heritage Landscape.

Cowan said the CHL, once the designation is official, will make it nearly impossible for a gravel pit to set up near the community.
“This will close the door firmly on any type of gravel pit operation in West Montrose.”

Cowan noted that these measures introduced by the township, along with a new, higher fee for processing gravel pit applications, were simply a means of protecting the township from aggregate operations that are not appropriate.

“Our infrastructure is in need of gravel for roads and bridges,” acknowledged Cowan. “We’re just saying we have to have mineral aggregate operations where they should be, not in someone’s backyard.”

Hunder Developments has until May 14 to appeal the decision of the OMB. Until then, residents and the township are being cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a great feeling, it really is,” said Martin Vrbanac. “Even if it is appealed and they win, this is still a victory.”

By Gail Martin
Posted on southwesternontario.ca, Apr. 25, 2014


The decision rendered by OMB vice-chairman Susan de Avellar Schiller, looked at a number of issues, including the proximity of the gravel pit to the neighbouring residential areas, the cumulative impact from both the proposed Hunder pit and the already approved Jigs Hollow pit, as well as the loss of prime agricultural land that would come as a result of the gravel pit.

  Read official OMB decision.