The road to RMP

EXTENSION OF THE RMP PILOT FOR 2010 IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

WE HAVE ALL really grown with this campaign, become more sophisticated at relating to government and learned how to ensure that everyone wins.”

Leo Guilbeault reflects on the Ontario Grains & Oilseeds long term campaign for a Risk Management Program (RMP) from his farm in Belle River, Ontario.

“Meeting politicians and learning how the system works is very interesting – I know more now than when we started, including how important it is to understand all of the personalities at play and to ensure that everyone’s needs are met along the way.”

grassroots beginnings
The campaign officially launched in 2005, but discussions began as early as 2003 to find a program to either extend or replace the Market Revenue Insurance program.  A grassroots group of farmers, in partnership with Directors and staff from the seven grains and oilseeds founding organizations in Ontario, designed a program they felt met the needs of farmers and government.  The program met the criteria of bankability, predictability and sustainability for farmers along with a cost share approach and integration with existing programming that was important to government.

Over the last five years, many farmers, directors and staff have played a major role in moving our program incrementally closer to permanence.  In that time, the membership of the team has ranged from as many as twenty down to only three members, reducing in size to a tight circle of confidence during election campaigns where the strategy required decisions to be executed quickly.  The consistency, optimism and dedication of this team has been and will continue to be the driving force behind the success of the campaign.

a changing political climate
From there, the campaign has experienced changes in strategy that have reflected the constantly changing political climate.  At the beginning of the RMP campaign in 2006 the goal was to garner awareness from government and the general public.  Rallies took place in both Ottawa and Toronto during election campaigning for the January 2006 federal election. 

“The rationale behind the rallies was to gain support publicly and politically through awareness campaigns.  They persuaded the government to look more closely at the needs of farmers,” says Guilbeault.

The rallies and regular MPP meetings that were held throughout 2006 and 2007 lead up to the 2007 provincial election that played a major role in the implementation of the pilot RMP in Ontario.  Both the Conservative and Liberal parties included the RMP in their election platforms as a result of consistent messaging from grain and oilseed farmers right across the province.  As a result, the RMP was implemented in the summer of 2007 as a three year pilot program.

a changing economic climate
“This time around, the economic climate has changed the picture,” says Guilbeault.  “A deficit budget and the resulting jostle for limited funds between every sector and government ministry necessitated asking only for a one year pilot extension for 2010.”

Ontario Grains & Oilseeds is excited for the implementation of the pilot extension and is now focused on a future, permanent RMP for 2011.  The only option for the sustainability of Ontario agriculture, according to Guilbeault, is a full program for all sectors, and he is optimistic the province will make it happen.

Another key player in the road to RMP, Dale Mountjoy – former President of the Ontario Corn Producers’ Association and current GFO delegate – believes that the keys to success will continue to be the support of our grain and oilseed farmers across the province and the dedication of each person who works on the campaign.

“If I were handing out advice on how to be successful in any political environment, I would suggest being present in your community and at political events so your MP and MPP knows you by name,” suggests Mountjoy.  “Even if you don’t have something to ask for – in fact, especially if you don’t – get out and meet your local representatives and build a rapport.”

The future of successful agricultural programs will be dependant on a shared partnership by the Federal and   Provincial Governments along with the farming community.

“If we all share a sense of responsibility and commitment to agriculture we will
find a way to make long term programs and policies work within Ontario and Canada,” concludes Guilbeault. •