National policy discussions

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

THROUGHOUT THE MONTH of November Grain Farmers of Ontario took part in many national policy discussions on broad topics such as the future of crop research funding in Canada, wheat biotechnology, sustainable energy consumption and crop innovation.

At the Canada Grains Council meeting in Ottawa, Don Kenny was on a speaker panel with Grain Growers of Canada, Western Grains Research Foundation and CropLife Canada. The panel was organized to speak about the potential for a national multi commodity research funding model now that structural changes are taking place within Canada’s wheat and barley marketing system. Don was supportive of a national dialogue on the importance of research and national priority setting. However, Grain Farmers of Ontario did underscore that all national priorities must be carried out in a regional context because the needs of a western flax producer are not always the same as an eastern soybean grower. Our organization believes there should be further investigation into the potential value of considering research from a national perspective and we look forward to the next phase of discussion.

At industry advisory meetings in Ottawa, there was a good conversation about biotechnology in wheat. The Grain Farmers of Ontario directors present shared our policy – that we support a science-based approach to biotechnology – and the other groups in attendance had similar views. The timeline for the development of biotech wheat is not clear at this point but our organization is willing to work with the industry to provide grower feedback whenever possible. Biotech wheat discussion is an area where Grain Farmers of Ontario will be more actively engaged with members in the coming months in order to most accurately represent the views of our membership.

In Calgary, directors and staff attended the Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit where participants in the biofuels sector from across North America gathered to discuss the future direction of the industry. There is a growing need to find energy sustainability to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent by 2050 which is the amount required to limit global warming to only two degrees. Energy sustainability in Canada will come from new regulations in the manufacturing and transportation sectors and increased output from sustainable energy sources like biofuel. The conference concluded with presentation on the future of the Canadian Renewable Fuels industry from Don O’Connor, president of Squared Consulting, who warned we have until 2017 to change our energy practices or we will not be on track to keep a global temperature increase below the desired two degrees.

Finally, at the GrowCanada conference in Winnipeg hosted by CropLife, our directors and staff were challenged to consider new ways innovation in agriculture can drive economic growth, help the sector adapt to change and ultimately benefit consumers. According to Mary Shelman, the director of the agribusiness program at Harvard School of Business, farm policy makers must consider the increasing demand of a global middle class and the shrinking availability of arable land. The conference also featured Dr. Lutz Goedde from McKinsey & Co. and formerly from the Gates Foundation. Dr. Goedde’s presentation mirrored information on climate change presented at the Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit. According to research analyzed by Dr. Goedde, we can expect a 3 to 16 percent decrease in productivity worldwide due to climate change.

The last month has provided an opportunity to network with national farm organizations and businesses right across Canada on a number of issues and given our organization new perspective on the challenges that will face our sector going forward. We look forward to working on these issues throughout the coming year and will continue to update our members as we progress. •

About Barry Senft 61 Articles
CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario