Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Keith Currie, OFA President
Thank you to the OFA membership for giving me a mandate to lead the organization in 2017. I’m honoured and energized to lead this 38,000 member strong organization into its 81st year as we work toward our ongoing mission to ensure Farms and Food Forever.
Teamwork matters most to me. It’s what makes every good farm, business and organization thrive. And it’s what I look forward to capitalizing on over the next year.
Relationships drive teamwork. OFA will focus on building and strengthening our relationship with commodities, industry, across the counties and with our non-agricultural allies, where appropriate, to achieve what we need for our industry and our members.
Our work in 2017 will include engaging with rural municipalities on several fronts. Simply put, OFA and our rural municipalities recognize the need for a serious public investment in rural Ontario. We all know how an investment in natural gas infrastructure will provide much-needed energy cost relief and new private investment in rural Ontario. There is also a continued need for investments in traditional rural infrastructure – the roads and bridges we need to operate competitive farm businesses. We also need to look out for rural Ontario’s social infrastructure, like sustaining rural schools, health care systems and sufficient broadband.
Generally, we will work with municipalities for appropriate provincial funding for municipalities. This will address our current concern that financially strapped municipal councils will be very tempted to look at the recent increase in farm property assessments as a cure for budget woes. We need to work collectively to ensure farmland does not bear a disproportionate share of property taxes.
OFA will continue building our relationships with our commodity partners throughout 2017 on issues that impact all of our farm operations. Collaboration on ways to reduce phosphorus runoff into watersheds will be a priority. We’ll look to create a more effective regulatory system. We will advocate for a workable and bankable risk management system in the next Ag Policy Framework. Underlying all this will be the credibility factor – our collective interest in improving public trust in the agriculture and food industry.
Agriculture is an exciting, challenging and changing industry. I know the OFA must continue to engage with the entire sector to effectively and successfully advocate for our members. I look forward to the weeks and months ahead, and all the important work we can do together.