Federal politics

FROM THE CEO'S DESK

Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

A YEAR FROM now the federal election will be over and we will either have a brand new government or a Conservative government with a new mandate. All parties will be issuing platforms over the next several months that will shape their vision of the future of our country. The question is — will that vision be the same as ours?

Agriculture is an important portfolio at all levels of government. I have previously used this column to highlight some of the national organizations and government committees that we participate in. It’s important to reiterate that even though we are a provincial organization, much of our work has a national scope. Decisions about business risk management programs, pollinator health, low level presence, trade agreements, and cost recovery fees from the Canadian Grain Commission are all made at the federal level and yet they have a significant impact on the successful operation of grain farms here in Ontario.

Partnering with other organizations that have similar interests as ours is one way we can get national attention for important agricultural issues. Over the next year, Grain Farmers of Ontario will position itself as an organization willing to collaborate with other like-minded groups who share in our sustainable growth strategy for the grains industry. The goal will be to put forward our ideas and opinions and provide important real-world feedback on how government regulations affect farmers.

At the federal level, we are strengthening our messaging by working with the Atlantic Grains Council and the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec. We have already participated in one highly successful joint venture with them. A reception held in Ottawa for 250 members of parliament and senior government officials provided us with a great opportunity to promote Eastern Canada’s grain industry and the significant contribution it makes to the Canadian economy.

It was also a chance to clear up the misconceptions many had about regional versus national grain industry issues. For example, many officials did not realize that eastern farmers are more concerned with the maintenance of highway infrastructure and shipping routes and were not affected by the rail crisis that plagued Prairie farmers throughout last fall and winter. These alternative transportation modes are vital to sustaining our advantage with domestic and U.S. food processing facilities and ethanol and biofuel producers. This explanation led to a better understanding of our other unique challenges, including the softening of commodity prices, the high cost of land, and the growing urban rural divide. Hopefully, it will also translate into effective policy.

The upcoming 2015 election will colour most policy decisions for the next year. Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Board of Directors and staff will continue to meet with our current elected officials and those looking to obtain office next November. We encourage you to promote the important role of agriculture to the candidates in your riding. In the coming months we will be providing you with information on key issues to help you engage in these important conversations. •

About Barry Senft 64 Articles

CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario