OFA outlined key recommendations as part of the Minister’s fall 2020 Ontario Pre-Budget consultations. The following key points were included in OFA’s pre-budget submission:
- working with municipalities across rural Ontario to develop a cost-effective infrastructure program, and provide core funding to implement the program. OFA encouraged the government to facilitate functional access to high-speed Internet across rural and remote Ontario;
- improving natural gas access and funding the development and adoption of new technology to use surplus biomass from Ontario farms as an alternative energy source;
- accommodating the unique needs of rural schools and medical services and facilities to ensure they remain open to serve the families of rural and small town Ontario;
- working with Ontario’s livestock sector to develop a Meat and Poultry Growth Strategy to address the processing capacity issue to ensure the financial sustainability of Ontario’s livestock farms;
- making financial assistance available to abattoirs for food safety upgrades to maintain high standards for food safety;
- replacing retired OMAFRA Agriculture Development Advisors in Northern Ontario and across rural Ontario;
- updating the eligibility requirements for the Ontario Land Transfer Tax’s Family Farm Exemption and the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program to reflect the complex reality of how modern farm businesses are structured;
- developing incentive-based policies and programs, under the Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan, to recognize the efforts of farmers in managing and enhancing Environmental and Ecological Goods and Services for the public’s benefit;
- requiring an Agricultural Economic Impact Studies on regulatory and policy proposals, in consultation and collaboration with the agriculture and agri-food sector; and
- requiring an Agricultural Impact Assessment (AIA), as part of the Environmental Assessment process, when a project has the potential to impact agricultural lands or activities.
These recommendations are designed to grow Ontario’s agri-food sector and our rural communities. Sound investments in rural Ontario will jumpstart farming, agri-business and rural Ontario growth, and in turn, stimulate the entire Ontario economy.