Continuing the push

To bring the message forward we need all hands on deck

IT IS ESTIMATED by some that Agriculture could once again become the number one industry in Ontario. The hard work and innovation of our labour brings in nearly $3 billion a year worth of food and biofuel products to Ontario and provides employment to hundreds of thousands. This is an exciting time to be in agriculture and the future looks promising.

In order for our sector to continue to prosper, it is prudent for our organization to stay on the radar of public policy makers. As part of GFO’s mandate, one of our key areas of focus is advocacy, public outreach and public policy. These are fairly general terms – what do they actually mean to you? Currently, we have been specifically focused on two public policy objectives:

PROVINCIAL: The permanent implementation of the Risk Management Program (RMP).

FEDERAL: The inclusion of provincial “companion” programming in the federal suite of agricultural programming.

These objectives will help us to create a sustainable and stable economic environment for grain farmers to operate in. As we all know, we have lurched from income crisis to income crisis in Canadian agriculture and, historically, federal agricultural programming has been ineffective and slow to respond. The data shows that not only does ad-hoc aid show up too little, too late, and often into the wrong pockets, but that it is also far more expensive for governments than a shared-cost, shared-risk program like the RMP.

In Ontario, the RMP is in the final year of the pilot project and we need to push for the permanent implementation of the program. We appreciate the leadership that the Ontario government has shown but now is the time to take this one step further and implement the RMP permanently.

Federally, we were encouraged by the announcement of AgriFlex in Budget 2009 but we were unhappy with the exclusion of the business risk management (companion) model in the funding framework. We have secured the support of all of the opposition parties for the business risk management (companion) model and have had incremental success with the government. The provincial Ministers at the beginning of July pushed the federal Minister to move ahead on the review of BRM programming and to involve industry in these decisions. We also have the support of many significant farming organizations. We are aggressively pursuing our federal objective through our national coalition- the Ontario-Quebec Grain Farmers’ Coalition. But there is more work to do!

With critical deadlines on the horizon, now more than ever, we need to continue our push. As we are the sum of all of our parts, we need your assistance to bring our message forward. Expect to be called upon in the next year as a part of our outreach to elected officials. We will need you to speak up at public meetings, send letters to the editor expressing our positions, make phone calls, and send letters and e-mails to elected officials. We also need you to vote to express your support for those political parties who support grain farming in Ontario! •