A MESSAGE FROM MINISTER LEAL
I AM VERY proud to be your new Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and honoured that Premier Wynne has asked me to serve in this capacity. During her time serving as both Premier and Minister, Kathleen worked hard and brought unprecedented profile and attention to the agri-food industry. I intend to roll up my sleeves and work as hard as I can to build on her legacy of dedication and results for this vitally important industry.
As Minister of Rural Affairs for the past year, I’ve had the privilege of working on behalf of rural residents in communities across Ontario, and I will continue this work. We’ve implemented a new $100 million infrastructure fund for small, rural, and northern communities, brought in a renewed Rural Economic Development (RED) program, and have charted a course for rural Ontario with our recently released Rural Roadmap.
As I take responsibility for Agriculture and Food, I do so with an immense respect for our farmers and food processors. You overcome challenges each and every day. Your work is the reason why the Ontario brand is known worldwide.
Over the coming weeks and months I look forward to hearing from you and building on the Premier’s legacy. For example, the passage of the Local Food Act was a proud moment for our government and for farmers across the province. But we know there is more work to do to ensure all Ontarians are aware of the good things that grow in this province.
I want the agri-food industry to see itself as I see it — a driving force for our economy. With this in mind, the Agri-Food Growth Challenge also remains a core part of our plan. By working together, I am confident the industry can double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs by 2020.
To help achieve these goals, we are moving forward with a 10-year, $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund, of which $40 million annually will be dedicated to an agri-food and agri-products processing investment category. This will help bolster Ontario’s already strong food processing industry.
We are also moving forward with our commitment to expand access to natural gas, an initiative that has the potential to be a game changer for the agricultural community in rural Ontario.
The recent provincial election renewed our belief in the value of building Ontario up by investing in people, in jobs, and in the economy. Ontario’s grain farmers are very much part of our plan.
The FPT table is another opportunity for us to work together to build Ontario up. Growing Forward 2 is in its second year and is once again a very effective way of moving the industry forward. However, it’s not too early to think about how the next agricultural policy framework will work for Ontario.
There are still issues that need to be resolved. While we have taken significant steps in cooperation with a broad cross-section of the industry to support pollinator health, we must continue to ensure decisions are balanced and based in science.
I see great possibilities for a strong and prosperous future for Ontario’s agri-food sector and for rural communities. Grain Farmers of Ontario and Ontario’s grain producers have so much to be proud of. Ontario’s grain crops cover five million acres of farm land across the province and are a major economic driver for the entire country.
We have established ambitious goals — for the agri-food industry and the province. Working together, we will strengthen the agri- food industry and our province as a whole.
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs