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Regional Official Plan Review: Rural and Agricultural System

Halton Region is reviewing agricultural policies to preserve agricultural land and support farming. Learn more about the scope of the review.

Why is Halton’s Rural and Agricultural System being addressed in the Official Plan Review?

The Rural and Agricultural System is comprised of rural and prime agricultural lands as well as businesses important to the viability of the agricultural sector. Halton’s rural countryside is defined by outstanding soils and a thriving natural environment. Halton’s agricultural sector is home to a wide range of farming types including horse farms, plant nurseries, hay producers, oilseeds operations, livestock operations, fruit and vegetable growers, and many others, and is nurtured by a community of active farmers.

The Region is currently working on an update to the Official Plan. The Regional Official Plan helps to support a Rural and Agricultural System that nurtures economic growth, secures access to food and helps ensure environmental sustainability. To build on these goals, Halton Region is consulting on how best to implement changes in Provincial direction through the Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper. Through the Official Plan update, the Region is exploring opportunities to strengthen the Rural and Agricultural System. To find out more about the rural and agricultural system and land use planning in Halton, have a look at the Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper.

General Questionnaire

Baskets of apples from a Halton orchard.

Only 5% of Canada’s land base is free of severe constraints for agricultural production, and Halton contains some of the best of these soils.

Rural and agricultural areas: Why they matter

In the current Regional Official Plan, Rural and Agricultural areas are planned to support a viable agricultural industry and preserve the open-space character and landscape of Halton’s non-urban areas. A strong Rural and Agricultural System is vital in order to:

  • Protect farms to promote agriculture and support sector productivity for an economically strong agricultural system
  • Direct sales of local produce and other products to visitors, local communities and businesses
  • Preserve farm communities, open space character and scenic views of the Escarpment

Addressing the Rural and Agricultural System in the Regional Official Plan Update

Halton is now consulting on key areas that could help shape the Rural and Agricultural system according to these goals and objectives.

In combination with the Natural Heritage System and mineral resource extraction areas, the Agricultural and Rural System makes up 70% of Halton’s total area.

Halton’s agricultural and food sector had gross farm receipts exceeding $143M* in 2016 and is a significant source of employment in the Region.

Agriculture and food pie graph

* Census of Agriculture statistics do not include gross farm receipts for mushroom production.

Mapping and designation of prime agricultural areas

The Province released Agricultural System mapping (external link) in February 2018, which identifies the extent of prime agricultural areas in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, including in Halton Region. This is the first time that the Province has mapped a prime agricultural area for the Greater Golden Horseshoe area and the Region is required to incorporate it into the existing Official Plan Prime Agricultural Mapping.  Prime agricultural lands, as part of the Agricultural System, are a limited resource in Canada and represent the best soils for agricultural production. Mapping and designation of prime agricultural areas allows for the protection of these lands. Provincial data indicates that an additional amount of Halton’s general Agricultural Area could be designated as prime agricultural area. The map shows the Proposed Agricultural System (PDF file) in the updated Official Plan.

Draft Proposed Agricultural System

A map of the proposed agricultural system in rural areas of Halton.


  NHS Key
  Mineral Resource Exraction Area
  Prime Agricultural Area
  Rural Land Area

For proposed changes to the Natural Heritage System, please refer to the Natural Heritage Discussion Paper.

Agriculture-related uses

The Province now allows municipalities to permit an expanded range of agriculture-related uses in prime agricultural areas with guidance provided in the Guidelines on Permitted Uses in Ontario’s Prime Agricultural Areas document (external link). This  allows businesses that support agriculture, such as farmers’ markets, farm suppliers and food processors, to be introduced to Halton Region’s prime agricultural areas as the definition for agriculture-related uses has expanded.


Agricultural research centre

Processing of produce grown in the area (e.g., cider-making, cherry pitting, canning, quick-freezing, packing)

Farm equipment repair shop

Farmers' market primarily selling products grown in the area

Grain dryer farm operations in the area


On-farm diversified uses and agri-tourism

The Province has also introduced a new group of permissions for prime agricultural areas called “on-farm diversified uses”. These policies allow farms to explore new options for generating income to help support agriculture for the long term. Potential uses include bed and breakfasts, cafes, antique shops, home occupations and home industries. Agri-tourism is a type of on-farm diversified use. Agri-tourism, including on-farm events, may also be considered.


Home occupations (e.g., professional office, bookeeper, land surveyor, art studio, hairdresser, massage therapist, daycare, veterinary clinic, kennel, classes or workshops)

Agri-tourism and recreation uses (e.g., farm vacation suite, bed and breakfast, hay rides, petting zoo, farm-themed playground, horse trail rides, corn maze, seasonal events, equine events, winetasting, retreats, zip lines)

Home industries (e.g., sawmill, welding or woodworking shop, manufacturing/fabrication, equipment repair, seasonal storage of boat or trailers)

Retail uses (e.g., farm market, antique business, seed supplier, tack shop)

Café/small restaurant, cooking classes, food store (e.g., cheese, ice cream)



Large areas appropriate for cemeteries are rare within settlement areas. Prime agricultural areas are intended to prioritize agricultural activities that support the agricultural system; however, there is ongoing pressure to permit cemeteries. Careful consideration must be given to balance these needs.

Agricultural Impact Assessments

An Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) is a study that is used to identify the possible impacts of new non-agricultural uses on an agricultural system. Halton Region is considering what additional circumstances should require AIAs.

Special needs housing in the agricultural system

Special needs housing provides accommodation for residents who require alternative care or assistance to live independently. The current ROP does not address special needs housing outside of urban areas. Further consideration is appropriate.

Simply Local is a Halton based program that connects residents and businesses with farmers, farm experiences, and fresh local food.

simply local logo

Get involved and have your say!

The Regional Official Plan shapes how and where Halton grows—and your input is valuable as we make these decisions for our community!

To help you learn more about this topic, you can read our Rural and Agricultural System Discussion Paper (PDF file). The paper provides more detailed information about how climate change relates to the Regional Official Plan.

Our general and technical questionnaires are now closed. We will continue to welcome feedback through the next stages of the Regional Official Plan Review process. Please check the Regional Official Plan Review page regularly or sign up to receive email notifications to stay up to date. If you have any questions or comments, please email or call 311.

In 2019, Halton marked the 40th anniversary of the inception of the Agricultural Advisory Committee.  It is the longest standing municipal agricultural committee in Ontario.

Additional resources

If you require an alternative format or need accommodation, please call 311, email, TTY 905-827-9833 or 1-866-442-5866. We will work with you to meet your needs.