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Monday, January 31, 2005

Study: Urban consumption of prime agricultural land

1951 to 2001

Urban expansion has devoured a large amount of Canada's best agricultural land over the last few decades, according to the new study Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletin: The Loss of Dependable Agricultural Land in Canada.

The study, based primarily on census data and the Canada Land Inventory, showed that towns and cities more than doubled the area of good agricultural land they occupied between 1971 and 2001, consuming a further 7,400 square kilometers.

In 2001, towns and cities occupied 3% of all dependable agricultural land. More importantly, they occupied over 7% of the nation's Class 1 agricultural land. Class 1 land is Canada's best and most productive agricultural land.

In Ontario, which has more than one-half of Canada's Class 1 agricultural land, towns and cities occupied over 11% of this land in 2001.

This urban encroachment upon dependable agricultural land occurred as the overall demand for cultivated land increased. The area of cultivated land grew by one-fifth between 1951 and 2001, while the amount of available dependable agricultural land actually declined by 4%.

This has forced farmers to bring lower quality land under cultivation to meet the growing demand for agricultural products. Lower-quality land is often unsuitable for stable, long-term agricultural production.

Production on poorer quality land may also be more environmentally harmful, as it is often susceptible to soil damage resulting in erosion, and requires greater use of fertilizers and pesticides.

The consumption of dependable agricultural land by towns and cities particularly affects specialty crops that have a limited ability to flourish in Canada. Speciality crops, such as those in the fruit belts of Ontario's Niagara region and British Columbia's Okanagan region, are particularly vulnerable to urban encroachment.

The impact of towns and cities also extends beyond their physical boundaries. For example, golf courses, gravel pits and recreational areas are often located on dependable agricultural land adjacent to urban areas.

Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletin: The Loss of Dependable Agricultural Land in Canada, Vol. 6, no. 1 (21-006-XIE2005001, free) is now available online. From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet products, choose Free then Agriculture.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Nancy Hofmann (613-951-0789) or the information officer (613-951-0297;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.

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Date Modified: 2005-01-31 Important Notices