Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Crispin Colvin, OFA Director
The barbecue and summer event season is upon us. For most Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) members it’s time for catching up and enjoying local Ontario fare. This social season is also an opportunity to advocate for issues impacting Ontario agriculture and your farm business.
The summer barbecue season often features community events with politicians, municipal councillors and political advisors. These are excellent opportunities for OFA members to speak up and start a conversation about our agri-food industry.
This summer OFA is focusing our messages on three issues – phosphorus reduction in the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways, the Changing Workplaces Review and rural economic development.
Ontario farms and agricultural practices have been identified as a potential source of phosphorus in our waterways. High levels of phosphorus results in algae growing faster than the eco-system can handle, leading to decreased water quality and algal blooms in Lake Erie. Ontario farmers continue to modify farming practices to reduce phosphorus entering our waterways. OFA is working with government, industry partners and experts to ensure Ontario has a solid plan and proper support for farmers to take meaningful and sustainable measures to reduce phosphorus entering the Great Lakes and Ontario waterways.
Ontario’s agri-food industry is alarmed by the government’s Changing Workplaces Review. Farmers are employers too, and the minimum wage increase will have negative impacts on our farm businesses and Ontario’s agri-food industry. Raising minimum wage will make Ontario farmers and agri-food businesses less competitive, threaten food security and undermine the sustainability and variety of Ontario agricultural products. Farm employers need to maintain the current, flexible approach to employing farm workers within the Employment Standards Act, coming up for review in fall 2017. Any changes made to the agricultural exemptions under the Employment Standards Act will further compound the competitive pressures.
The provincial government needs to recognize rural Ontario’s tremendous growth potential. Rural Ontario growth is affordable with smart infrastructure investments. OFA is asking the government for reliable high speed internet, low cost energy options like natural gas, local schools and reliable social services. These basic infrastructure investments will support the viability and growth of farms, rural businesses and communities and pay dividends.
OFA encourages members to speak up for our agri-food industry whenever the opportunity arises. Take the opportunity this summer to attend community events and barbecues and share your reasons why rural Ontario needs support from all levels of government.