Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Mark Kunkel, OFA Director
Northern Ontario is one of agriculture’s biggest untapped opportunities. Climate change, improved land drainage, new crop varieties and the use of innovative technologies like precision agriculture and row covers are all leading to the rise of productive farmland in northern Ontario.
Generally considered the area north of Lake Huron, northern Ontario holds tremendous growth potential for the agri-food sector. The Ontario government recognized the promise in this region with its 2011 Growth Plan for Northern Ontario – a plan to guide decision making until 2036.
Agri-food is one of 11 existing and emerging priority economic sectors identified in the growth plan and is the focus of a new strategy to develop an agriculture, aquaculture and food processing sector strategy for northern Ontario. Development of this new sector would build the capacity for greater agricultural services and bring more opportunities for value added commodities.
The northern strategy also aligns with the Premier’s 2013 agri-food growth challenge and the Premier’s 2014 mandate letter to OMAFRA to explore opportunities to develop agriculture in northern Ontario.
Expanding agriculture, aquaculture and food processing in northern Ontario brings unique opportunities for farmers to look for new, innovative approaches to food, fibre and biofuel production. Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently submitted an Environmental Bill of Rights discussion paper on northern expansion opportunities.
OFA has long been a supporter of expanding Ontario’s agri-food sector in northern Ontario. Our recommendations include investments in broadband and infrastructure, releasing user-friendly soil maps, increasing availability of Crown land and enhancing agricultural research.
OFA’s recommendations for growth in northern Ontario reflect our vision for all of Ontario agriculture – to increase connectivity, promote an economically robust agri-food system and support OFA members in their efforts to maintain and expand their agricultural operations in Ontario.
OFA will provide feedback on the detailed strategy for northern Ontario that the government is expected to release later this year.
A strategy for northern Ontario has the potential to benefit all OFA members by strengthening our entire industry and promoting economic development in agriculture. Ontario’s biggest growth opportunity is agriculture and our sights are set on northern Ontario.