This week’s guest commentary comes from Keith Currie, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Agriculture finally received recognition in the federal election forum with at a national agriculture leaders debate on September 30. Hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and moderated by Ontario dairy farmer, Andrew Campbell, the debate featured questions from farmers across Canada. Debate participants included Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Hon.Gerry Ritz, Malcolm Allen, NDP Agriculture Critic, Mark Eyking, Liberal Agriculture Critic, Andrew West, Green Party candidate for Kanata-Carleton and Yves Lessard, Bloc Québécois candidate for Beloeil-Chambly.
CFA has been reminding federal candidates that Canada’s food and farmers should be part of their party platforms throughout this lengthy candidacy process and the debate gave each party an opportunity to clarify their positions on Canada’s food and farm future.
Canada’s farm constituency is relatively small and very disproportionate to the nearly $107 billion agriculture contributes annually to the Canadian economy. CFA reminded federal candidates that the issues discussed don’t just affect the farm gate but the entire agriculture industry and all of Canada.
OFA has been working with Ontario candidates to help them understand agricultural concerns here in Ontario and broader national issues and representatives attended the debate. OFA supports CFA in their efforts to raise awareness and understanding of agriculture at the national level.
OFA has outlined three important areas that MP candidates in Ontario need to understand about our agriculture and food industry – Risk Management Programs, infrastructure support and agricultural research.
Farming is an uncertain business at the best of times, with market fluctuations and weather dictating the financial success of Canadian farmers. And it’s never been more important that the federal government understand the needs of farm operations. A recent survey indicated 70% of OFA members believe Business Risk Management programs do not meet the needs of their farm operations.
Infrastructure is the backbone of communities across Canada – the roads, bridges, internet and more that supports a thriving, competitive agricultural industry that drives our country’s economy. Federal government funding is needed to support rural infrastructure in municipalities across the country. Ontario agriculture is unique in asking the federal government for infrastructure support to expand natural gas access in rural Ontario. This is a necessary investment that will provide Ontario farms with a competitive energy option.
In recent years, the federal government has been focusing less on supporting basic agricultural research resulting in closures of some agricultural research centres and fewer Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research positions. Research is important to support sustainable improvements in agriculture and OFA is asking the federal government for continued support of publically-funded agricultural research in Canada.
The agriculture leaders debate provided the platform for discussion on these and many other topics. As election day approaches, Canadian farmers are ramping up their discussions with federal candidates and we are all doing our part to get agriculture on their agendas. Be sure to vote on October 19. Have your say in our next federal government.