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Beware the Buyers of Ag Land


Five years ago a numbered Canadian company started buying up prime farmland just north of Toronto for a good market price. The company was backed by Boston-based Baupost Group. There were different motives for selling—old farmers retiring, young farmers wanting to expand, some simply needed the money—all were told that the company wanted to be the largest potato producer in the region. The company hired back the farmers, upgraded the equipment, and for a while everything was good.

Then people started to notice odd thing: The 30 farmsteads purchased were quietly and systematically eradicated for “agricultural” reasons, estimates were that the company had purchased an incredible 8,000 of the 15,000 available acres, unusual areas were graded, stands of trees were illegally clear-cut, “irrigation” test wells started to appear in the wrong places. Suspicion grew. The community created the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce (NDACT) as a watchdog group.

Today, that company is known as The Highland Companies and it is the largest potato producer, taxpayer, and employer in the township. Today, that company wants to create a 2,316 acre / 250 foot, below-the-water-table limestone quarry—the largest in Canada—that will have to be de-watered to the tune of 600 million litres (159 million U.S. gallons) of fresh water per day. NDACT is now hard at work to protect the whole region’s class A1 farmland and, this being a headwaters area, the source of water for five major rivers and one million people.

When I came across The Independent‘s articles about the Bixby Ranch, Baupost’s modus operandi here came to mind. My advice is to organize quickly (they have had years to plan and get their lobbyists in place) and don’t trust a word that they say.

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