The CFFO is focused on how to generate additional jobs within the agriculture and agri-food sector. The Premier’s Challenge set ambitious goals for the sector which were renewed in the recent mandate letter to the Minister of Agriculture. The leadership within the industry needs to work together to generate new ideas to meet this challenge and help strengthen our great province.
The CFFO assessment is that there are limited opportunities at the primary production level to generate more jobs. Growth in the greenhouse sector and growth in local farmers markets represent relatively modest gains in jobs. The potential to open up more agriculture in Northern Ontario is an ambitious idea that may form the new heartland for cow-calf production in Ontario. Yet, even if these opportunities are fully realized, primary agriculture alone cannot reach the goals of 120,000 jobs and doubling the rate of growth in the industry by 2020.
While the primary sector of the industry may struggle in job creation, there is the potential to increase the rate of growth in the sector. At the primary level, trends towards more efficient technologies on a limited land base in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario means that few operators will continue to manage more and more of the land-base. This trend is an extremely long-term reality for agriculture as ever since the wheel was invented, farmers have been able to manage more resources. However, these efficiencies allow a very small number of people to feed millions in North America on a relatively small proportion of their incomes. CFFO believes that Ontario farmers will need to continue to adopt new technologies in order to remain competitive within the North American market. We also believe that improved stewardship will be required. Our focus on water policy is a cornerstone in sustainable growth and stable supply for agriculture in Ontario.
Primary agriculture has a strong role to play in strengthening the food processing sector in Ontario, and thus help create jobs. In order to grow the availability of local food there is the need for greater coordination between producers, processors and retailers to ensure that our supermarkets and restaurants have a consistent supply of high quality and tasty food on store shelves and restaurant menus that were grown in Ontario. Moreover, there is untapped potential within the various immigrant groups in the Greater Toronto Area to supply herbs and spices used in traditional meals drawn from their cultural backgrounds.
Primary agriculture has a strong role to play in meeting the goals of the Premier’s challenge to the sector. As the foundation of the sector it is essential that farmers continue to strive to improve in their use of technology and embrace better stewardship of their resources. Primary agriculture can be the cornerstone of a more prosperous and growing agri-food sector in Ontario.