New policies create opportunity to voice needs

growing forward, the five-year commitment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to support the agri-food sector is set to expire in 2013 and consultations have begun to ascertain what Growing Forward 2 (GF2) should contain.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is pleased to be a part of these consultations at both the director and staff levels. As the consultations take place, we will continue to keep members updated through the magazine, online and with our Bottom Line email newsletter.

The key areas where GFO will actively participate on behalf of our members include Research and Innovation, Market Development – both domestic and overseas – and Business Risk Management.  Other topics with the consultations will be monitored for relevance and impact on Ontario’s grain farmers to ensure our members are able to maximize opportunities created through new government initiatives.

Within GF2, GFO is hoping to see solutions to deal with the gap that exists between research funding programs that challenge the continuity of important agricultural research. Although Growing Forward was a five-year commitment, only three years worth of funding were available once the program was launched. There is a need for continuous renewal of funding programs without gaps as a year without funding while programs are being renewed can have a significant negative impact on both research and industry innovation.

Grain Farmers of Ontario’s market development priorities are also reflected within the proposed GF2 policy framework as market access and science-based decision making is highlighted. GFO was pleased to hear the announcement in February 2011 that the European Union approved 0.1 percent tolerance level for approved events (GM) in crops imported for feed use but we are hoping Canada will work towards negotiating a change in their zero tolerance rules for unapproved GM events in food crops. Such a change would reflect GF2’s proposed policy of science-based decision making.

GFO is also prioritizing the need for increased import quotas and the elimination of tariffs in places like the European Union where there are limitations to the quantities of Canadian grain that can be exported and significant tariffs applied to imported grains. 

Also outlined in the proposed GF2 policy framework is a need for “governments [to] focus on helping manage risks that cannot be supported by private sectors.” Instating a permanent Risk Management Program for farmers that is supported by both the provincial and federal governments would go a long way in helping farmers manage risk. A permanent RMP would better target the approximately $1 billion per year spent by the federal government on ad-hoc emergency aid.

Overall, GFO is eagerly anticipating GF2 as initial discussions lead us to believe that many parts of the policy framework will reflect the needs and priorities of grain farmers. We will continue to be the voice of Ontario’s grain farmers as we engage in dialogue with policymakers and promote the needs of our farmer-members. •