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OFA: Serve up ag issues to local politicians this summer (2015)

By Peggy Brekveld, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Sometimes the toughest conversations pair well with food. There are a lot of issues facing Ontario farmers and Ontario agriculture right now. And the summer barbeque circuit is a great place to put agriculture on the menu with your political guests.

As farmers and members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), we all share a responsibility and have a role to play in advocating for our industry. And what better backdrop than summer time while enjoying locally-produced Ontario food and beverages. Consider hosting a summer event in your area, and be sure to invite your local MPP and their staff, as well as municipal and federal representatives.

Agriculture is a complex, innovative industry and they may not be aware of some of the great things happening in your area. Have your speech ready when you talk to politicians. Start a conversation about who you are, your farming operation and the issues that keep you up at night.

Every one of our farm operations is unique, but we do share a number of common concerns. These are the issues we all need to be talking to policymakers about, so they understand what agriculture means to Ontario and how we can continue building our industry and move it forward together.

The OFA has four key issues for government we’re sure will make great barbeque conversation this summer with politicians in your local community.

Energy is always on tap for political conversations. Ontario agriculture needs competitive energy costs that include a farm/industrial electricity rate and access to affordable natural gas. The spring budget did not address rising electricity rates or expanding natural gas to rural Ontario. Ontario farmers need electricity rates more in line with neighbouring jurisdictions to keep our farming and industrial sector more competitive.

Infrastructure provides the backbone to communities – the roads, bridges, internet and more that supports a thriving, competitive industry. OFA sees the expansion of natural gas to rural Ontario as a necessary infrastructure investment that would provide farms with another lower cost energy option. Natural gas infrastructure is something OFA has been discussing with government for years and it’s important to keep the conversation going at the local level. Share with MPPs what natural gas can do in your community.

A big priority for the OFA, and an important message for politicians, is the review of four significant land use plans. OFA’s Vice President, Keith Currie has been appointed to the expert advisory panel overseeing the review of The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. OFA is urging government to make a fair evaluation of all four land use plans. And we are asking government for consistency across the plans to put farmland first. Farmland preservation is critical – the fact that Ontario loses 350 acres of farmland every day is an effective reminder of the importance of protecting our greatest farming resource.

And our work continues on the issue of pollinator health and the new rules for protecting pollinators in Ontario. Pollinator health is critical to all Ontario farmers. The new regulations that come into effect on July 1 are a burden with very short implementation timelines. OFA will work closely with government and industry to make these regulations workable. We need more details and flexibility around how the new rules are implemented. And we will continue to push for a comprehensive pollinator health strategy that works for everyone in the province.

Be ready to talk up agriculture during the social summer barbeque circuit with politicians and policymakers. It’s our job to be sure they understand the issues that are impacting our operations. That’s the only way our voices will be heard.


For more information, contact:

Peggy Brekveld
Board Member
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
807-707-2814

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883 



Comments

David Strachan says on July 2, 2015 at 4:03 PM

The following relates to the loss of farmland in Ontario. I would like to make some suggestions for consideration by OFA which, together with input from the OFA, might form the basis of a submission to the Ontario Government: 1. All farmland of classes 1,2,3 and 4 already purchased by developers but not yet developed, will be subject to strict conformity with existing government regulations, including demonstration that such development is both necessary and financially beneficial to the local municipality and that no alternative land is available for development in the area which does not use prime agricultural land. 2. All agricultural land of classes 1,2,3 and 4 within the the boundary of the Greater Golden Horseshoe and purchased after January 1, 2016, whether inside or outside a settlement area, will remain as farmland in perpetuity. 3. Farmers who wish to dispose of class 1,2,3 and 4 farmland may offer their land for sale to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Minister will be obliged to purchase the land for a price determined by the Minister and reflecting the difference in value between land for farming uses and land for development uses, based on the average value of land recently sold to developers in the area. (e.g. If a developer purchased the adjacent farm for $3,000,000, but a farm 5km away sold recently for $1,000,000 then the province would purchase the farm being offered for $2,000,000). Once the sale is completed, this land would be leased to farmers by the province at favourable rates. The obligation for the province to purchase farmland, will expire on January 1, 2021. 4. All future developments not affected by the above, will be based on redevelopment, intensification, classes 5, 6 and 7 farmland, wasteland and areas outside the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Hopefully some food for thought at least. David Strachan, Midhurst


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