This week’s guest commentary comes from Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
On August 18, the Ontario government announced details on two new programs that will provide rural Ontario with funding for community infrastructure projects. These programs are great news for Ontario agriculture and the communities where we farm. That’s why the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is encouraging members to consult with their neighbours and county federations and work with their municipal councillors on proposals to fund projects in their municipality.
The two new funds are the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund – an Ontario government initiative introduced in the recent provincial budget, and the Small Communities Fund – part of the federal government’s Building Canada fund.
Agriculture depends on municipal infrastructure improvements to keep growing and strengthening the Ontario economy, and the new Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund provides a steady source of predictable, long-term funding. The $100 million per year fund supports the revitalization and repair of roads, bridges, water and wastewater assets for small, rural and northern communities. Half the fund – $50 million per year – will be available as application-based funding. And that’s the new pot of money that OFA encourages members and counties to secure.
The second fund is the Ontario component of the federal government’s Small Community Fund to identify priority projects at the municipal level. The province and the federal government are supporting this fund with $272 million each for projects in municipalities with populations of less than 100,000.
Does your community have an infrastructure priority that could benefit from an injection of funds? Start a conversation today in your community to identify priority projects that will improve the opportunities for agriculture. Work together with your neighbours, your local county federation and help your municipality to submit an expression of interest to have a project considered by Friday, September 19.
These new funds signal a tremendous opportunity for rural Ontario. Agriculture is growing the Ontario economy, and we need continuous improvements to keep the momentum going. It is up to each of us to advocate for the infrastructure and investments we know we need to strengthen our community, our businesses and Ontario agriculture as a whole.
Look around. Where and how could your community benefit from infrastructure funds? Make sure agriculture has a voice and is a priority for local infrastructure improvements in your area.