Senator: Don’t treat soil like dirt

Last updated on Oct 12, 23

Posted on Oct 12, 23

2 min read

Getting people to care about soil shouldn’t be hard. After all, if our soil is in trouble, then we’re all in trouble, for what should be obvious reasons.

But that hasn’t been the case, at last outside of the farming community.

Farmers appreciate the value of keeping soil healthy. They know its worth when it stays in place in fields instead of running off into streams, rivers and lakes. They keep their soil plied with ample organic matter to stimulate microbial action and make their fields alive. That helps plants grow.

But soil has been routinely dismissed and disregarded by most members of the public, gardeners aside. If they think about it at all, they’re likely negative thoughts about dirt, mud, worms and the like. 

Senator Rob Black wants to change that. The Fergus-area senator has become one of the country’s leading advocates for agriculture. He’s used his Senate seat to advocate for agriculture, which to him hinges on soil health.

He’s led a senate committee on agriculture and forestry looking into soil preservation.

And most lately, he’s taken the next step.

Last week Black announced he’s launched an inquiry into land use in Canada.

“It is imperative that we protect our farmlands and production capacities,” he said. “We need to cohesively collaborate amongst federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to address the challenges we face in securing our food supply, both domestically and globally. This collaboration will also help with future land planning, development and urban sprawl.”

How delicious is the timing. Black’s inquiry was launched days before it was announced the RCMP is looking into Ontario’s flawed plan to open the Greenbelt for housing. That plan has drawn focus on government shenanigans for sure, but it’s also thrust farmland disappearance into the spotlight…even more than alarming studies from the agriculture sector showing Ontario farmland is disappearing at a rate of nearly 320 acres a day.

Black’s inquiry and the RCMP action are unrelated.

But if ever there was a time to get people thinking about soil, this is it.

Black is concerned that Canadian farmland is being lost. He says the statistics, data compilation and research presented during his committee’s soil preservation study have also illustrated how urban sprawl and land-use planning are adding to the degradation of farmland and contributing to the loss of prime agricultural land across the country.

Black says he has noted many times that protecting soils, along with prime agricultural and forest land, is essential to Canada’s food supply chains, economy, and environment.

“Discussions on land use have continued to grow in the face of a booming population and the increased demand for housing,” he says.

Despite the fervor, Black is optimistic this ship can be righted. He’s always been a half-full-glass individual.

So I’ll share his optimism. When this inquiry is complete, I’m hoping the results will be eye opening and helpful and that municipalities and agriculture will find new ways to work together for responsible land use.

Meanwhile, I’ll wring my hands like everyone else at the rate of farmland loss and hope the Ontario government Greenbelt debacle keeps a focus on how little regard farmland has received.

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