Ontario beef farmers know that the biggest cost factor in establishing a farm business is the cost of land. Census data shows that Ontario lost 641,980 acres of farmland (down approximately 0.05%) in the 5-year span from 2006 to 2011, including 228,821 acres of pastureland lost (down approximately 0.12%) in the same period. For comparison, cropland acreage decreased by 0.01% in the same 5-year period, highlighting the fact that pastureland is being lost at a much higher rate than other farmland. The available and affordable land in Northern Ontario presents a significant opportunity to help reverse the decline in Ontario’s beef production and increase jobs and income for families, if the proper supports are put in place.
Expanding Ontario’s cow herd requires tremendous collaboration and BFO needs to work with the province to allow for industry growth. Currently, BFO is requesting that the provincial government release crown land in Northern Ontario for beef production. This will help ensure our feedlots in the south have a steady supply of Ontario-born animals, our southern processors maintain a sufficient supply of cattle, and consumers continue to have access to local Ontario beef products.
With the average age of Ontario farmers having now reached 55 years old, we need to be seriously committed to finding new ways of ensuring a sustainable and economically viable future for the next generation of beef farmers. We believe wholeheartedly that Northern Ontario can provide this opportunity and that sustainable beef farming operations in the north will reduce the threat of processing plants closing, with the increased production used to access new and growing markets in Ontario and around the globe.
It must be stated that Beef Farmers of Ontario strongly supports any and all initiatives aimed at increasing Ontario’s cow herd, including expansion initiatives in other areas of the province. Recognizing the need to look at ways to expand the cow herd in Southern Ontario as well as Northern Ontario, BFO has a new project getting underway that will establish resources and identify pathways that will help encourage and facilitate expansion of the cow herd across southern and eastern Ontario.