Smart spending

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

AGRICULTURE IS A major driver of Ontario’s economy. The more crops we produce and process, the better the economic results are for the province. We currently generate $6 billion in revenues and more than 50 thousand jobs. New technology has resulted in yield increases that have positioned Ontario’s grain and oilseeds sector for growth; however, this potential can only be met if we take a value chain approach to the industry and have the support of government through strategic investment.

We understand that governments are under fiscal restraint, but investments are required to maintain and grow our agri-economy. That is why the recommendations put forward by Grain Farmers of Ontario for Ontario’s 2014 Budget included suggestions for a smart spending approach.

Specifically, the Ontario government needs to partner with our industry on the following:

•    Building a speciality soybean refining facility
•    Creating an Advanced Grain Technology Analytical Centre (AGTAC) in Ontario
•    Developing a processor retention and investment attraction program
•    Adequate funding for business risk management programs
•    Pollinator health

We have recommended a $20 million investment by the province in a commercial- scale specialty soy crush and oil refinery – the first of its kind in Canada. This will provide a high quality product to meet the current demand for locally produced food-grade oil. We also encouraged the government to make a further investment in local food by allocating $2 million towards the creation of an Advanced Grain Technology Analytical Centre (AGTAC).

Our support for the $120 million, three-year Processor Retention and Investment Attraction Program, proposed by the Alliance of Food Processors, will provide capital for the domestic development of Ontario’s current processor base and will attract new investment commitments to the industry.  The closure of processors, such as Heinz in Leamington and Kraft in London, are a reminder that we cannot take for granted what we have in-place and should spur us to take advantage of new opportunities for growth. By 2020 there is the potential for more than 185,000 new jobs and over $70 billion in revenues from Ontario’s food and beverage processing industry. As the raw input providers, grain farmers will play an important role in realizing this growth potential. We need to work along-side our value chain partners and the government to combat growing world-wide competition and ride another cycle of commodity prices.

Business risk management tools are essential for farmers who want to invest in their operations while weathering the cyclical nature of commodity markets. The current crop insurance program works well, and should carry on in its current state; however, the Risk Management Program, with the recently imposed cap of $100 million dollars, impairs the program from providing price stability and that is why Grain Farmers of Ontario has asked the provincial government for a commitment to an appropriate funding level.

Financial sustainability is not the only focus of our recommendations for this year’s budget. Grain Farmers of Ontario is also committed to environmental sustainability. We asked the Ontario government to support our commitment to sustainable crop protection tools and requested their support in developing national solutions for pollinator health.

Grain Farmers of Ontario believes these smart spending investments will support continued re-investments by our famer-members in their operations and attract new investments in Ontario agri-businesses. This collective approach to growth will ensure the Ontario economy maximizes its benefits from value added production in the processing sector.  •

About Barry Senft 64 Articles

CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario