Farmland for FARMERS

Posted: Mar 3, 2017

Originally published in Farm Focus, February 2017

By Katherine Aske

 

Since the 2008 global financial crisis, investing in farmland has become increasingly popular.  Bonnefield is a Canadian investment company that owns approximately 100,000 acres of farmland across the country, including NB. The company buys farmland owned by farmers looking to free up capital, or new farmland for farmers looking to expand, and leases it back to them. Once a transaction has been made, farmers almost never have the option to buy the land back.

The NFU was present at a recent presentation Bonnefield gave in Woodstock, NB, and it was clear from the discussion that the crowd of farmers was rightly skeptical, especially as the company’s ultimate goal is to provide stable returns to their investors – not to protect farmland. Despite Bonnefield’s slogan “Farmland for Farming”, they offer no guarantee that the land they purchase will remain as such.

Farmers first came to North America to escape the tenant farming model that existed in Europe (and took unceded land from Indigenous communities – but that’s another issue).

Bonnefield’s farmland investment model is a return to indefinite tenant farming, and the NFU believes that a sustainable future for our food system demands that farmland remain in the hands of those who work and care for it.  

Over the next decade, a generation of aging farmers will be selling their land at an unprecedented rate in Canada. We must work together to ensure that this transition happens in a way that protects our farmland, allows farmers to retire with dignity, and makes farmland accessible to the next generation of farmers. To begin to address this issue, provincial governments must determine how much land is being purchased by non farmer investors so that an informed public discussion can take place.