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Keep investment companies from buying farmland, NFU urges

National Newswatch | 27 November 2023

Keep investment companies from buying farmland, NFU urges

By Alex Binkley

Rally on Parliament Hill calls for immediate action.
 
Ottawa-The federal government needs to convince the provinces to ban investors from buying the country’s agricultural land so farmers can use it to produce food, the National Farmers Union has urged.
 
In a rally on Parliament Hill, the NFU called on the government to stop allowing predatory investment firms to gamble with Canada’s food system,
 
“Canada is hemorrhaging farmers. Recent reporting shows that 40 per cent of Canadian farm operators plan to retire over the next decade. The majority don’t have a succession plan.” The No. 1 barrier facing new farmers is access to farmland.
 
Jessie MacInnis, NFU Youth President, said, “Our governments must pull the emergency brake and keep farmland in farmers’ hands. We need land legislation that favours the next generation of farmers, not investment firms.” Governments must enact a total ban on investor ownership of farmland.”
 
“Massive investment firms are pushing the cost of land out of reach,” the NFU said. In Ontario, investment company purchases have driven up the cost of farmland by an average of 16 per cent annually. Average values for cultivated farmland in Ontario increased by 19.4 per cent in 2022. Under these conditions, farmers cannot afford to farm.”
 
Rav Singh, Youth Advisor for NFU-Ontario, said, “We know what happens when land speculators are allowed to run rampant. It was land speculators who bought up Greenbelt farmland with the help of the Ford government, planning to pave it over and build high-end townhouses. Investment companies should not have the power to gamble with the future of farming.”
 
Asked about the rally, a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the government understands “the importance of protecting food sovereignty and its role in keeping farming communities strong and competitive. While provinces hold jurisdiction over land ownership, including land-use planning and agricultural land protection policies, we will continue to work with provincial and territorial partners, and organizations like the NFU to address challenges associated with access to farmland and ensure that strong support mechanisms are in place for Canadian farmers.
 
“This includes investing in the longevity of family farms through tax support, loan guarantee programs, skills development initiatives, and agricultural partnerships. The goal is to ensure family farms stay in the family for generations and thrive.”
 
MacInnis said the NFU is urging the federal government to put pressure on provincial governments by making provincial bans on investment company ownership of farmland a condition for access to federal cost-sharing of business risk management programs.
 
The federal government can also remove tax benefits and loopholes, such as RRSP eligibility of farmland investment companies under the Income Tax Act; put redistribution of lands currently held by farmland investment companies on the agenda of federal-provincial meetings; and make farmland investment company-owned farms ineligible for publicly funded business risk management programs, she said.
 
There are many potential policies for reducing speculation such as restricting farmland purchases to provincial residents, restricting foreign farmland ownership, and banning specific investment vehicles — like pension funds or real estate investment trusts — that would be effective without in any way limiting aspiring farmers from accessing land, she said.

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