Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Peggy Brekveld, OFA Vice President
It’s back to business for Ontario MPPs as they begin the fall session on September 12. The summer break provided plenty of opportunities for Ontario politicians to travel Ontario’s countryside, to enjoy the sights, and to brush up on the issues facing farmers and rural Ontario.
Anyone driving through rural Ontario this summer would have seen the impacts of the hot, dry weather on the province’s field crops. I wonder if rural visitors also noticed the inconsistency in staying connected to the internet. Internet is something rural residents and farmers desperately need to conduct and grow their businesses.
Rough roads and closed bridges are also typically encountered on a trip through Ontario’s countryside. This may have been a mild inconvenience for summer visitors, but the lack of investment and maintenance to rural roads and bridges is becoming alarmingly normal in rural Ontario.
Farms and rural businesses depend on modern infrastructure and continued investments to grow and prosper. This includes the traditional roads and bridges, and extends to broadband and natural gas infrastructure to keep our businesses in touch and competitive. OFA applauds the previous government announcements on these issues. We will continue our lobbying efforts during this fall legislature session, advising on the roll out of the infrastructure investment across rural Ontario.
With the drought-like growing season, climate change is also indirectly on the minds of farmers. From a political perspective, agriculture is part of the climate change solution. Ontario farmers are already taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and OFA will continue advocating for agriculture’s inclusion in the new Cap and Trade system which comes into effect in January 2017. OFA is also working with commodity organizations to determine agriculture’s opportunities in the Climate Change Action Plan. OFA has been a strong advocate for recognizing agriculture as contributing to climate change solutions.
OFA’s role in advocating for our members also includes staying on top of emerging issues and concerns.
Our work this fall will include participation in the development of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair’s new Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy. As part of the multi stakeholder working group, OFA will participate in collecting research and data on soil health and conservation. The goal is to develop a strategy that will help grow and sustain Ontario’s agriculture sector, protect the environment and address climate change.
This fall, OFA will also be participating in the Changing Workplaces Review. This review of the changing nature of the workplace, aims to amend some legislation and protect workers, all the while supporting business in today’s economy. Ontario’s farm sector employs 158,000 in the province. It’s important these employers and workers are fairly represented, and OFA will be participating in the process.
It’s sure to be a busy fall on the farm and at Queen’s Park. OFA continues to advocate for our members’ issues and concerns as they relate to the business of farming and living in rural Ontario. We’ll keep members informed as we work with MPPs and policy advisors.