Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Keith Currie, OFA President
A new calendar year is often synonymous with new ideas, fresh approaches and the opportunity to look at the past and make some adjustments or changes for the year ahead.
OFA starts 2017 with a new mission – Farms and Food Forever – that builds on the advocacy work we have been doing for 80 years, and looks to additional areas where our work will benefit the long-term sustainability of our 36,000 farm family members.
Our work with government has always been critical to making meaningful changes for Ontario farmers. And OFA is encouraged to read the contents of the recent mandate letters issued by provincial ministers to their parliamentary assistants for 2017. In particular, the mandate letters for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry both contain areas of priority that align with and will be supported by OFA’s work during 2017.
Ministers have reinforced the importance of economic growth as the top priority that will include investing in better infrastructure, affordable education and a competitive low-carbon economy. We are glad to read that Minister Leal also reinforces the need for effective programs and services to rural communities.
Minister McGarry includes mention of the continued support of OMAFRA by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as part of the Livestock in the Great Clay Belt Proposal, and the effective implementation of the Invasive Species Act through engaging with stakeholders.
OFA’s key priorities for 2017 focus on growth in the farm community as well as across rural Ontario. We continue to push for affordable, accessible energy for rural Ontario, including natural gas.
We are working to ensure rural municipalities have access to adequate funding to make infrastructure investments to support roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and broadband.
Agriculture has an important role in climate change, and OFA is advocating for agriculture’s potential to mitigate the impact as we participate in the Climate Change Action Plan.
Our work on regulations is ongoing as we continue to push for a more effective regulatory system for the agriculture sector. Minister Duguid has emphasized his Parliamentary Assistant will pursue Burden Reduction legislation to modernize and update legislation. This is paired with ongoing consultations on the Red Tape Challenge to ease regulatory burdens.
We are also preparing to work on new legislation, such as the Waste Free Ontario Act, that will reduce waste and our dependence on rural landfills. Farmers are already engaged in re-using and recycling so our interest is in ensuring farmers do not bear an unfair responsibility on eliminating waste.
OFA is looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that 2017 holds for Ontario’s agri-food industry. We are encouraged with how our key priority areas will help support the areas the provincial government is working on in the second half of its mandate.
Watch for updates on these issues on our website at ofa.on.ca and through all our social media channels. Here’s to the prospects for a healthy and productive new year.