This week’s guest commentary comes from Don McCabe, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Canadians are heading to the polls this fall to elect federal Members of Parliament, since the Prime Minister dropped the writ earlier this week. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is taking the opportunity to talk with federal candidates about the issues and opportunities in the Ontario agriculture industry.
There are many federal programs and regulations that impact the way we farm and operate our farm business in Ontario. For example, the current Growing Forward 2 program is 60% funded from the federal level in cost share with the province on numerous programs. Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada, Health Canada, Environment Canada, Revenue Canada and others are all federal departments that have a regulatory effect on Ontario farm businesses.
As farmers we need to talk to MP candidates around the province and through county and regional federations about the issues facing agriculture. We want to be sure politicians appreciate and understand the importance of our industry, and the contributions we make to the national economy. The next federal government needs to be aware of and implement an agenda that works for Ontario’s farming and food sector.
There are three main issues in need of focus at a federal level. We’ll be looking for every opportunity to talk with federal candidates over the coming weeks about risk management programs, infrastructure support and agricultural research.
As candidates meet and greet voters and debate the issues we want to be sure that agriculture gets top billing. When we talk about risk management, our overall goal is to have the federal government work together with the province to improve risk management programs including Production Insurance, Agri-Invest and Agri-Stability. Volatility in the market place combined with currency fluctuation and reduced coverage under current federal risk management programs needs to be addressed.
Infrastructure is the backbone of communities across Canada. We’ll be advocating the need for the next federal government to increase transfers to rural municipal infrastructure. Municipalities need more support to facilitate farm competitiveness and rural economic development. Rural Ontario needs solid transportation, internet and natural gas infrastructure to grow our businesses and our communities.
Our agriculture sector across the country depends on a steady stream of new research to support sustainable, innovative improvements in agriculture. Continued cuts in federal spending have seen agriculture research centres close, and fewer Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research positions. OFA needs the federal government to support publicly-funded agriculture research in Canada with a continuum of support from basic to commercialization. Today’s innovations keep Canadian agriculture strong. With broken links in the chain, future opportunities to meet tomorrow’s challenges will not come from Canadian sourced achievement.
Ontario agriculture contributes $13.7 billion to the annual GDP and $3.9 billion in government tax revenues ($2.1 billion to the federal government). And 1 in 8 Canadian jobs comes from agriculture and food. All of these major economic impacts come from Ontario farm sector production and it’s important all federal candidates understand the importance of providing national solutions to Ontario agriculture issues.
We all have an important role to play, advocating for issues that impact our farm businesses. At the OFA we advocate for agriculture all year long, an election is a great opportunity for us all as voters to get agriculture on the table as we talk with local MP candidates.