This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
The people of Ontario are heading to the polls this June to determine which political party will govern Ontario for the next four years. The agriculture and agri-food sector is an important part of the Ontario economy and rural life, and there are many concerns that different parts of the sector hope to see addressed. Over the next few weeks, the CFFO will spend some time focusing on some of its key issues. This week, the CFFO wants to focus on how Ontario agriculture’s future success and productivity will rely on water policy in this province that encourages optimal use of water for food production.
From the perspective of the CFFO, three game-changers exist that are driving the need for a renewed focus on water policy. First, high land values are making productivity improvements a cost effective option for farmers. Second, managing both productivity and water quality in an increasingly erratic climate requires a better set of tools than we are using now. Third, the CFFO believes that government is more interested in supporting farm innovation and self-reliance than ever.
The CFFO believes that regulatory reform is the first critical step in setting the stage for growth. The CFFO believes that we need regulatory reform and potentially legislation that prioritizes water for biological use for agriculture. Finally, the CFFO believes that we need to build up a strong knowledge base within the industry around water use from both a mechanical and a biological perspective and the differences between the two types of use.
At the same time, we acknowledge and affirm that stewardship of water is critically important. We don’t want a policy that drains our aquifers and we don’t want policy that runs our rivers dry. Instead, we want a system that allows for good stewardship of our resources through responsible irrigation, drainage and retention systems. This will not only help farmers improve yields, but also addresses concerns around the release of excess nutrients like phosphorus into the environment.
The CFFO believes that improvements in agriculture-related water policy can lead to greater water stewardship for the entire agriculture sector. We hope that each of our political parties are willing to commit to taking action in this important policy area.