This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
As we prepare to enter into another year, it is a good time to set some priorities for 2014. In particular, there is a challenge from our Premier to grow the agriculture and agri-food sector and truly become the leading engine of growth in the province. But there are also other important challenges that farmers need to face in the year ahead. The CFFO is focusing its efforts in addressing some of these challenges.
The Premier’s Challenge to create 120,000 jobs and double the rate of growth in the sector remains a substantial challenge. From the perspective of the CFFO, a focus on water management is a key to the future for agriculture and agri-food. Farmers can manage their productivity through irrigation, drainage, and storage. Furthermore, better management will help farmers take on the environmental challenges related to water where agriculture can play a role in being part of the solution. Finally, improving the foundation of food production in Ontario can aid in attracting food processors from abroad if farmers are able to demonstrate a very high level of dependability in our production system.
Another key focus area in meeting the Premier’s challenge is the need to focus on infrastructure in Ontario. We need to look at the cost of transportation to the valuable markets both within the province and American states within one day’s drive, and find ways to reduce those costs. We need to look at ways and means to improve efficiency crossing the border. Ensuring that adequate rail service is available for food processors is critical to meeting this challenge. Simply put, we need to be able to compete with our neighbours in the United States in the movement of agricultural goods.
Outside of the challenge, the issue of prophylactic neonicitinoid pesticide use remains an issue to be dealt with in 2014. The principles of integrated pest management that are strong in our fruit and vegetable industries are the example that our cash croppers should be looking at as they put together their pest management plans for 2014. Finding ways to more sustainably manage pest concerns needs to be a high priority for the cash cropping portion of the agriculture sector.
2014 promises to be another interesting year for agriculture in the province. There are many challenges ahead that will need to be dealt with, but with each challenge there will be an opportunity. The CFFO looks forward to working on these issues with our members and the rest of agricultural community.