A major study on farmland by the federal Environment Department warns that agricultural land is disappearing at an alarming rate. Between 1961 and 1976 Quebec and the Maritimes lost more than half of their agricultural land, while sections of Ontario lost 20 per cent or more. During the same period, farmland in western Canada increased by 6.2 million acres, resulting in a net loss to the country of 3.4 million acres, an area larger than twice the size of Prince Edward Island. The main reasons for the loss of farmland have been urban development and economic difficulties faced by farmers.
Prime agricultural land continues to be gobbled up for development, says report, because Canadians are unwilling to give up short-term gains for long-term benefits. But already the present generation is faced with the effects of unwise policies, as between 1961 and 1976 foodstuff imports increased by 69.5 per cent. Despite regular promises from municipal and provincial governments to protect farmland, the same governments regularly open the land to housing developments, industrial parks, and highways.
As the Globe and Mail of September 1, 1983 reminded us, Canada is a big country, but only 11.0 per cent of its land is of any agricultural value and only 0.5 per cent is prime farmland. By the year 2000 Canadians will need millions more acres to feed its growing population. Concludes the Globe: “Our children will pay for our folly.”