Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Don McCabe, OFA President
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently took agri-food advocacy to the federal government. On March 14, I participated in a round table discussion with commodity groups and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Thanks to Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield for his assistance in organizing this meeting.
Various issues facing Ontario and Canadian farmers were discussed, including trade, risk management programs and commodity specific concerns. OFA brought two topics directly related to the Minister’s mandate letter to the table – the development of a national food policy and climate change policy.
In his mandate letter, Prime Minister Trudeau tasked Minister MacAulay with developing a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food. Canadian farmers endorse this initiative. OFA’s interest in improving awareness of safe, local and healthy food, improving food safety and promoting healthy living was captured in the National Food Strategy (NFS). Developed in 2012 by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) in consultation with the agri-food sector and consumers, the NFS is a document presenting a long-term vision for the Canadian food system, from production through consumption and everything in between. The NFS includes nine strategic objectives the Canadian food system must meet to serve the needs of future generations in Canada and the global community.
Three of the NFS objectives align directly with the Minister’s mandate to develop a food policy – Canadian grown products should be the first choice of Canadians; consumers should choose foods and healthy eating patterns that promote optimal health and that consumers should always have access to safe and nutritious food. OFA and our colleagues across Canada, through the CFA are prepared to work with the Minister to secure a Canadian Food Policy that incorporates better health for Canadians with a strong, sustainable food industry.
The federal government has made it clear they want to tackle climate change. OFA is on-board with agriculture as part of the climate change solution and reminded Minister MacAulay that Canada’s agri-food sector needs appropriate tools, technologies and policies to address climate change. As farmers, we can offer food security, climate resiliency and other environmental goods and services to mitigate emissions and adapt to our changing environment. OFA will continue this discussion with the federal government and policy makers to make sure agriculture is recognized and appropriately supported to adapt to the realities of climate change.
The dialogue with the federal government and MPs will continue on April 12 as our county federations of agriculture in and around Ottawa convene the 10th annual Parliament Hill Lobby Day – an opportunity for MPs to meet with grassroots members and leaders to talk about farming and food production. Our county representatives, along with Quebec farmers, will bring messages about a food policy, climate change, trade and risk management to our elected MPs.
We believe that Minister MacAuley’s mandate letter and OFA’s priorities match reasonably well. This provides an opportunity for a new direction in agricultural policy at the federal level. Action and results will be the true measure for OFA’s 36,000 members to be able to build on the #1 industry in Ontario.