Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Debra Pretty-Straathof, OFA Director
Every year Ontario farmers make the trip to Parliament Hill to bring agriculture’s voice to our federal government. This year’s event is on March 23 and includes representation from across Canada. Grassroots members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), together with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and our Quebec colleagues from the Quebec Farmers Association will be meeting with MPs and their staff to deliver the voice of Canadian agriculture.
The release, in February, of the Advisory Council on Economic Growth’s report, The Path to Prosperity, emphasized the role of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector, and its potential to drive economic growth. As farmers, we’ve been sharing that message with government, and will use the report to validate our requests for government support in infrastructure, seek to include its directions in the national Food Policy and strive for a reprieve from carbon pricing on critical farm inputs.
The Path to Prosperity report reinforces that farming and food are essential for life and for economic growth. Our agri-food sector is able to grow and create jobs. With strategic investments by government, we will be in a stronger position to sustain our food system, environment and our communities.
On March 23, we’ll be talking to government about the need for better transportation infrastructure – those roads, bridges, rail and shipping facilities necessary to transport our products to markets across the country and the globe.
Today’s farm businesses and rural Ontario residents need high speed internet – a business necessity farmers need to access precision farming applications, conduct global and domestic marketing, and for our rural students to learn in a global environment.
Infrastructure investments in expanding natural gas access to rural Ontario will give farmers, rural residents and business owners a new, lower priced energy option. Government investment in a 20-year plan to service rural Ontario with natural gas could generate $3 billion in new economic activity. We need that investment now to deliver this kind of economic growth.
Minister MacAulay has been mandated to create a national Food Policy. We’ll be discussing this opportunity on Parliament Hill, reminding government of the National Food Strategy that CFA created that would fit the bill for a Food Policy to guide sustainability and food security for generations to come. We are encouraged with the Minister’s mandate to create a long-term strategy, and with the direction from the Path to Prosperity report, Canada should be investing in a Food Policy that will secure our food supply, and drive innovation and exports to help feed the world.
Our discussions on March 23 will also remind MPs of the obvious – farmers are ruled by the weather and are the first to be impacted by climate change. We have been and will continue to contribute to climate change mitigation. New research and opportunities continue to arise for farmers to handle climate change and government support in initiatives like the emerging bio-economy and bio-products industries will help deal with climate change while opening up additional economic, job development and environmental opportunities.
Even though farms are part of the solution, carbon pricing is providing another competitive challenge. Pricing carbon for fuels, critical farm inputs, will disadvantage Canadian farmers. We can’t afford to be at a competitive disadvantage by carbon pricing on fuels – the price for putting our export market development at risk and possibly destabilizing our food security goals is far too high.
Canadian agriculture goes to Parliament Hill the day after the federal budget announcement, but we are confident our recommendations will be considered in government budget investments and policy development. This event is a significant opportunity to bring messages directly from grassroots farmers to our federal leaders. OFA is proud to participate, along with our fellow agricultural organizations, to speak on behalf of Canada’s more than 200,000 farm families.