ONTARIO HAS A major impact on which party will form the federal government for the next four years. That means every vote will count during the election scheduled for this October. I encourage all of our farmer-members to have a discussion with the candidates in their riding to find out their opinions on the important issues we are dealing with. It’s also an opportunity to remind them that the grain and oilseed industry in Ontario is a significant economic driver and, in order to continue to foster growth in our sector, our unique challenges need to be addressed. For example, marine shipping plays a bigger role in connecting us to export markets than the rail industry relied upon by Prairie farmers.
Trade agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations currently underway, have a significant impact on the value of our grain and oilseed exports. Grain Farmers of Ontario believes new trade agreements need to be finalized and implemented in a timely manner in order to support our efforts to increase exports.
Domestically, we need continued and increased support for the bio-economy and renewable fuels sectors which can utilize corn and soybeans as raw materials in the production of ethanol and biodiesel. The government also needs to support research and innovation through industry- led funding programs that ensure a steady stream of new advancements that allow for better agronomic practices and improved crop varieties suited to the unique growing conditions that exist across the country.
It’s also important that our elected officials recognize the importance of business risk management (BRM) programs for farmers. We require access to a suite of fully-funded federal programs that are timely, predictable, bankable, and straightforward. AgriStability, one of the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 suite of BRM programs, is not working for farmers in this manner. Grain Farmers of Ontario believes a review of this program is needed so that it can be replaced with a more predictable and transparent program that works to provide income stabilization.
Another important discussion to have with your candidates is the issue of our regulatory environment. Many of the inputs used by Ontario farmers, such as pesticides and GMOs, are regulated under federal law. We need to make it known that we require this federal regulatory system to provide consistency for the entire Canadian agriculture industry — and not allow for a patchwork system in which different rules and regulations can apply to farmers in different provinces. The federal government cannot credibly criticize other countries for not having science based approval processes for agricultural products when it’s happening in their own back yard. Therefore, the federal government needs to assert authority in matters where provincial officials are making questionable policy. Federal agencies have helped to foster our world-wide reputation as safe food suppliers who operate under a reliable system based on sound science We need strong leadership at the national level to ensure that reputation isn’t tarnished. To that end, Grain Farmers of Ontario will be calling on the new federal government to pass legislation to ensure that provincial governments cannot ban or restrict the use of federally approved farm inputs.
Once again, I encourage everyone to get to know the candidates in their federal ridings and where they stand on agricultural issues, and use that information to make an informed decision on voting day. More details on our federal election strategy will be made available in the coming weeks. •