Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Eleanor Renaud, OFA Director
Our growing world population and shifting climate puts increasing pressure on agriculture and farmers to produce more food. Maintaining sustainable farms and preserving productive farmland is another significant challenge as Ontario’s agri-food industry evolves. To address these challenges, the Ontario government recently mapped out a discussion paper, Farms Forever, to help inform policy development to support a strong and innovative agri-food sector.
Farms Forever is a new initiative by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), first tasked to Minister Jeff Leal in the Premier’s mandate letter in fall 2016. The new discussion paper outlines four policy objectives of Farms Forever:
1. Help preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land close to major urban centres
2. Support the local sourcing of food
3. Strengthen Ontario’s agri-food sector
4. Support young farmers and new entrants
The discussion paper clearly outlines the importance of working with stakeholders to accomplish the Farms Forever objectives and the government is asking for feedback on the direction of this new initiative. Although the timing of the consultations is challenging for Ontario farmers with our current planting season, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) encourages members to offer their views on this initiative. Discussion questions in the document ask for input to build strategies for success, identify opportunities and obstacles to the initiative, support farming and food processing and support consumer awareness and demand of Ontario products.
OFA is a key stakeholder in Ontario’s agri-food industry, and will be responding to the discussion paper with suggestions and identifying synergies to work together with government and fellow stakeholders to preserve Ontario farms and farmers. Our job is to advocate for Ontario farmers, and ensure farming remains viable for future generations by keeping our land and farm businesses sustainable.
Supporting our farmers and the agri-food industry today is the first step to ensuring a safe, steady food supply for future generations. It all starts with the goals outlined in the Farms Forever discussion paper – strengthening the province’s agri-food sector, preserving farmland, supporting the local sourcing of food and supporting new farmers. This is the just the start, there’s a lot of work to do to, but OFA is confident the government’s Farms Forever is a step in the right direction for our industry’s future.
Read more about the Farms Forever discussion paper on OMAFRA’s website, www.omafra.gov.on.ca, and share your outlook on the future of Ontario’s agri-food sector.