Agricultural Land Base as Part of the Agricultural System

  • Provincial policy requires that prime agricultural areas be protected for long-term use for agriculture.
  • Official plan schedules must ensure prime agricultural areas are identified and mapped with an appropriate agricultural designation.
  • Mapping of the agricultural land base helps municipalities make informed land-use planning and economic development decisions that strengthen the agri-food sector.
  • OMAFRA's Rural Planners are available to assist municipalities with agricultural land base matters.

Map depicting the agricultural land base in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Specialty crop areas, prime agricultural areas, candidate areas, the boundary of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, settlement areas, hamlets, municipal boundaries, employment areas and natural areas are included in the map.

Implementation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Implementation Outside the Greater Golden Horseshoe

  • The Provincial Policy Statement requires prime agricultural areas to be protected and designated.
  • In Southwestern Ontario, it is common for all land outside of settlement areas to be designated as prime agricultural areas because all the land is of high quality for agriculture.
  • In other areas with a broader mix of prime agricultural land and lower-capability land, a study may be conducted to help identify and designate lands with prime agricultural area characteristics:
  • Please contact an OMAFRA Rural Planner to determine the need for a study and the most suitable methodology, based on local conditions and available resources.
  • Both LEAR and ALES studies use a combination of variables and data such as Canada Land Inventory (CLI) land capability for agriculture, current land use (agricultural and non-agricultural), and parcel fragmentation. The main difference is that LEAR uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to digitally analyze the data, resulting in quantitative scores for land within the study area
  • Any methodology used to designate prime agricultural areas is to be applied consistently across the jurisdiction.
  • Once a LEAR or ALES is complete, additional analysis is done to validate and confirm the study's outcomes. This may include:
    • field verification,
    • consultation between upper and lower-tier municipalities, neighbouring municipalities, and Agricultural Advisory Committees, and
    • identification and consideration of the agri-food network
  • Please note that LEAR and ALES analyses are to be applied across a municipality, preferably at the upper-tier municipal level. They are unsuitable for site-specific analysis (e.g., site-specific official plan or zoning by-law amendments).

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca