By John Clement November 4, 2011 Ontario is a great place for those in the farming and food business. In addition to world class farmers, processors and marketers, there’s also an established infrastructure that undergirds the industry. But while that’s all positive, it doesn’t mean that more can’t be done to ensure that continued investment takes place to secure future opportunities. The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers is a case in point. The organization represents 224 greenhouse vegetable growers in Ontario who are responsible for almost 2,000 acres of production and approximately $641 million in farm gate value. The group estimates that another 450 acres of production can be added in the next five years in the Essex region alone, equating to $450 million in capital investment, 840 new jobs and at least $158 million per year in production. That’s good news and something to applaud. But there are barriers to continued investment in greenhouse production. The greenhouse group points out that “red tape” has created a number of frustrations and concerns. The group says that a number of its growers have “indicated frustrations and concerns relating to the time and resources required by the complex web of approvals necessary to operate their existing greenhouses and particularly to obtain building permits for their new greenhouses.” Their biggest concern is the multiple authorities involved in these processes and the wasteful duplication requirements forced upon growers, resulting in significant, unnecessary delays in obtaining permits and approvals. Another area of concern is access to energy and electricity, particularly in the Essex region. According to the greenhouse group, larger acreages of greenhouse construction cannot proceed without immediate infrastructure investment for electricity and natural gas distribution. In addition, there is not always support for combined heat and power generation in the greenhouse sector, creating further disincentives. Ontario’s greenhouse growers have done a great job of building and serving markets across North America. However, they point out that they need to continue to ramp up production to build and hold their spot in the marketplace. To do that requires a continued investment in infrastructure at municipal and provincial levels and a commitment to cut back on “red tape.” The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, plus other farm groups, continues to point out that regulations and infrastructure need to be supportive of agricultural investment in Ontario and not create unnecessary burdens or disincentives. The experience of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers provides a good example of the barriers we need to continually work towards eliminating.
John Clement is the General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website:www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.
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