Fall agenda fills up with political priorities
By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Ontario politicians are heading back to the legislature for the fall sitting, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has a full lineup of work to accomplish with the 107 MPPs representing our province.
We’ll be meeting, consulting, partnering and working with government policymakers on behalf of the 37,000 farm family members we represent. Our theme for 2014 activities is Growing Ontario – and we’ll be reinforcing the contributions of the agri-food industry in providing food, fibre and jobs for the province. Our goal of growing agriculture and agri-food aligns well with the recently published mandates of Ministers.
Climate change is on everyone’s mind and impacts agriculture more than any other industry. Growing our farm businesses will depend on our ability to cope with climate changes. The OFA is establishing a position to review with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to address mitigation of climate change causes and adapting to the impacts. We will be at the table when climate change policies are discussed and developed to ensure agriculture’s beneficial role and its adaptation needs are recognized.
Farmland preservation is always a priority. From the proposed Rouge National Urban Park, and the planned reviews of the Greenbelt, Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment plans, we must preserve our most productive land for agriculture production. We can’t grow, thrive and innovate on a shrinking land base.
The farm and agri-food industry’s ability to grow successfully depends greatly on competitive input costs. This includes access to competitive energy including natural gas and electricity. OFA is working towards both through important changes to the Long Term Energy Policy to affect electricity rates as well as expanding access to natural gas.
We’ve had success in expanding natural gas infrastructure across rural Ontario and applaud the government’s announcement of loans and small grants for natural gas infrastructure. The clear benefits of rural natural gas in growing our farm and agri-food economy will be used to plan further expansion of the gas network. We know that affordable energy for rural Ontario is key to help our industry meet the Premier’s challenge of creating 120,000 more jobs by 2020. And we’ll work with rural municipalities that are interested in natural gas as a component of economic development.
Many factors can and will contribute to success in farming and the agri-food industry. Access to a skilled workforce is quickly becoming an important factor in limiting our ability to grow. There are already two to three jobs available for each agriculture graduate.
Damage done by trespassers and lost productivity due to invasive species or poorly constructed regulations may sound minor but they do affect our ability to sustain and grow our farming businesses and the agri-food sector. OFA will be addressing these and many other issues with the Ontario government as we work collaboratively on a business environment that enables us to keep growing Ontario.
The OFA has a full legislative agenda this fall. Watch for continued updates and information on these issues affecting Ontario’s agri-food industry.