By Paul Vickers, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Whether it be direct or indirect, the entire population has a connection to agriculture and the ongoing challenges within the industry. Rural or urban, we all rely on food, fibre and fuel to sustain our everyday lives. Therefore, it is imperative that the population beyond the ag echo chamber become aware of the ongoing issues. Bringing both triumphs and challenges to the forefront of municipal, provincial and federal levels of government, has the power to influence decision making in the future and make us a bigger part of the conversation.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is proud of the effort made by local and county federations to facilitate politicians’ meetings within their regions. Last week, the Grey County Federation of Agriculture (GCFA) and Bruce County Federation of Agriculture (BCFA) teamed up to host an open meeting, sharing the impact of agriculture in this region and some of the ongoing challenges faced in Grey and Bruce counties. Municipal representatives, MPs and MPPs were invited to the table to join the conversation. Local commodity groups, Conservation Authority representatives and supporting stakeholders, such as Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) were also in attendance. A tradition 14 years in the running, this year’s event attracted nearly 50 participants.
Enhancing communication between the agricultural industry and all levels of government creates a better understanding of issues creating barriers in rural communities and farming families. Events like these facilitate a unique opportunity to join many players in proactive discussions with an agricultural lens. Given the smaller proportion of rural population, it makes it that much more important for our rural communities to amplify their voice in the presence of politicians and policymakers.
In all my years of involvement in agriculture, food and farming have never been as prominent in the government’s dialogue as it is today. Sessions like these are a valuable opportunity to reiterate the impact of agriculture and advocate for the support we need to overcome current and future barriers in our industry.
Topics on the agenda included drainage, land use, a scope of agriculture in Grey and Bruce as well as local commodity group updates. Understanding that although these issues were mentioned in the context of this specific region, similar impacts are being felt across many rural jurisdictions. There was excellent engagement from all stakeholder groups that were present, and Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs facilitated a powerful connection between the rural voice and political participants. This allowed the illustration of connections between global issues, including the invasion of Ukraine, and the impacts on food supply, including local food production and security.
There was a notable engagement under the topic of land use planning; one of OFA’s top priorities. Agricultural land is a finite resource, making up less than 5 per cent of Ontario’s land base. With a rapidly growing population, it is understandable that elected officials focus on housing needs and expanding urban boundaries however, it is important that the value of preserving farmland is considered. OFA’s Home Grown campaign is promoting the critical importance of protecting farmland, and the video played during the meeting reiterated that message in the hopes that future discussions on urban boundary changes will take this valuable resource into account.
We would like to acknowledge the other counties and regions across the province that hosted similar meetings including Huron, Perth, Hastings, Lennox and Addington, Waterloo, Prince Edward and Northumberland. Similar events are already in the works, and OFA encourages other counties, especially those close to urban centres, to continue engaging with all levels of government to advocate for their regions. These meetings are an effective and efficient way to cultivate relationships and conversations among key leaders and decision-makers. It has been a valuable opportunity to share our sector’s challenges, successes and contributions as we work to strengthen global food security and our province’s supply chain.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883 ext. 218