Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Service Manager
The diversity in Ontario Agriculture and the different regions of the province can make legislation less beneficial for some of Ontario’s farmers. This became apparent as CFFO staff traveled the province during our 2016 Policy Tour, meeting in each of the federation’s 21 districts.
Travelling through the province, one sees the beauty of creation regardless if it is forest, rock, rivers, lakes, or fertile land. There are also different nationalities of people which add to the cultural characteristics of the province. This all makes Ontario a place many call home and are able to enjoy.
Agriculture in Ontario is also very diverse because of the diverseness of the province. Agriculture in Ontario benefits from diverse soil types, lay of the land, heat units, and moisture levels. There are many types of agricultural operations producing a variety of crops and livestock across the province. As Ontario’s population grows and our ethnic diversity increases, more opportunity arises for agriculture to fill new niche markets.
But there is also a drawback to the diversity. When legislation is made for the entire province it may not always suit every area or business. Some areas require a different set of “rules” to allow farmers to be the best they can be, or use the resources in their area to the greatest benefit. Processing of raw products is necessary but when transportation costs become too high, it is difficult for producers to stay with that kind of production. This was the case for a pork producer farming on St. Joseph’s Island in northern Ontario. The loss of abattoirs in rural Ontario is another example that affects northern Ontario farmers, again because it is more costly to transport animals.
Some programs to assist farmers do not always reach the more distant areas of the province. The Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) program, which provides assistance in preventing phosphorus runoff into the great lakes, is an example of one such program. Currently only those bordering Lake Erie have received this assistance while others have not but are in the Great Lake watershed. (See Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association website.)
Restrictions on hunting predators have also caused grief for many farmers. The numbers of these animals, such as coyotes, is increasing to such an extent that it becomes difficult to guard against them. Relocated elk in the Algoma region have caused trouble for farmers storing haylage in agri-bags; the elk rip open the bags with their hooves to get at the haylage.
At the same time some commodities have systems that facilitate food production in more remote areas. Transporting milk as an example where the cost of transportation is shared by all. Northern Ontario farmers are appreciative of this. The co-operative spirit of Ontario producers certainly is a strong asset for the industry. But as agriculture becomes more diverse to meet the needs of the populace, we need to be sure that regulations do not hinder or restrict certain regions in the business of food production.