Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary By Drew Spoelstra, OFA Director
Agriculture ministers from across Canada are soon making their annual pilgrimage to collectively talk about the opportunities and issues facing Canada’s agriculture sector.
Their goal for this July meeting is to agree to the broad, high level direction for the next agricultural policy framework – the successor to Growing Forward 2.
This year’s conference is themed Produce, Connect, Innovate, and provides the forum to explore initiatives and synergies that support sustainable growth for the industry and ensure Canada’s continued leadership in the global marketplace.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) had the opportunity, along with other industry leaders in Ontario, to meet with Minister Leal in advance of the conference, to provide OFA’s perspective on three main areas that will contribute to the ministers’ discussions around the next agricultural policy framework.
OFA was asked to share its position on a review of Growing Forward 2 – what we’ve learned from it, what worked and parts of the program where we would recommend changes.
OFA is a strong supporter of funding agencies for farmers that are led by farmers. And if we could make changes to the existing Strategic Initiatives chapter, it would be to ensure consistent funding, a simplified program structure to encourage participation, and greater transparency for how funding decisions are made.
As the government maps out the next agriculture policy framework, OFA provided input on the key opportunity areas for Ontario agriculture that we would like to see included. For Business Risk Management (BRM), OFA would like to see simplified programs, as well as opportunities for beginning farmers and diversified farm operations. BRM programs must be returned to adequate funding levels to ensure Ontario farmers are on a level playing field with competitors and have access to useful suite of risk management tools that can respond to their short and long-term needs.
In other areas, OFA would like the next agriculture policy framework to encourage more projects on innovation and more investment in rural connectivity.
When it comes to international trade, OFA reinforced what Ontario farmers need to be able to access new markets as part of future trade agreements that impact our industry. OFA believes BRM programs must continue to be seen as trade neutral. And we want to ensure future trade agreements do not negatively impact Ontario’s ability to set provincial policy.
Agriculture holds an enviable position in the list of the biggest economic contributors in Ontario. When OFA is asked for our perspective on how government policy decisions impact our industry, our responses carry the strength of 36,000 farm members.
We’ll be watching closely for the activity and outcomes that result from the Federal Provincial Territorial Ministers of Agriculture meeting in Calgary in late July. The discussions and decisions at that event will set the policies and programs that Canadian agriculture will work within for the next several years. OFA will be capitalizing on the opportunities for Ontario agriculture.