By Paul Vickers, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
This week, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is heading to Queen’s Park to meet with members of our provincial government. This is our first outreach day since last June’s provincial election, so it will be both an opportunity to visit with re-elected MPPs as well as get to know some of those who are serving their first terms at Queen’s Park.
As Ontario’s largest general farm organization, OFA is a conduit between the agriculture sector and the provincial government. We believe strongly in the power of building relationships and developing a two-way flow of information; at the same time, our job is to represent and advocate for the needs of Ontario’s farmers and rural communities.
I’m looking forward to participating in this event, particularly since it will be in person again after two years of virtual meetings. Being able to meet face-to-face helps with making connections and building relationships in ways no Zoom call ever can, and the social aspect at the end of advocacy day lets all of us interact in a more informal way. Although the business of the day is important, it’s not always just about business.
My fellow OFA directors and I will also be joined this year by local OFA representatives who aren’t part of the provincial board. It’s a great opportunity for them to learn first-hand about what OFA does on behalf of its members, as well as hopefully pique their interest in becoming more involved with our organization. For the politicians and government staff we are meeting with, our local leaders bring an added level of perspective and insight to our conversations.
Agriculture, as one of the biggest contributors to Ontario’s economic engine, is a big deal in this province. We generate $47 billion of economic activity every year, $20 billion in annual agri-food exports and support more than 750,000 jobs.
Last fall, the provincial government released the Grow Ontario Strategy to increase the production, consumption and manufacturing of Ontario food as well as boost our annual agri-food exports. Ontario’s agri-food industry is up to the challenge, but we need financial and policy support from the provincial government in some very key areas to help us get there.
Investments in rural Ontario’s physical and social infrastructure
Long-term investments into rural roads, bridges, high speed internet and energy infrastructure are essential to attracting new businesses and residents to rural municipalities. Social infrastructure investments in healthcare, mental wellness and schools will make smaller urban centres and rural communities an attractive option for businesses and residents.
Overall, this supports distributed economic development and growth of Ontario’s rural hubs – the only practical, long-term solution to ease our transportation crisis and relieve pressure on the urban housing market.
Improving access to veterinary care in rural and northern Ontario
Veterinarians play a critical role in promoting and protecting the health and welfare of animals, and our limited veterinary capacity in rural and northern Ontario leaves people, animals, and ultimately our food system at risk. A multi-faceted approach combining increased capacity and opportunities with programs and incentives will address rural Ontario’s critical veterinary shortage.
This includes placement and experience opportunities for students, expanded veterinary school programs and financial supports for students, and government-supported veterinary care in under-serviced areas.
Promoting and protecting Ontario’s food producing capacity
It is estimated that if every Ontario household spent $10 a week on local food, it would add an additional $2.4 billion to our provincial economy and create 10,000 new jobs. Encouraging the procurement of locally grown food across the broader public sector – this includes schools, hospitals, long-term care and post-secondary institutions – will strengthen and enhance Ontario’s food supply chain and the provincial economy.
At the same time, boosting funding for Ontario’s government-industry insurance program for farmers will give farmers the tools they need to adapt to future challenges, boost farm business resilience, and ensure future food security.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883 ext. 218