A COALITION OF ONTARIO’S FARMERS
ON NOVEMBER 13, a coalition of farm organizations was established to address shared concerns around the Ontario government’s regulatory process for agriculture.
The coalition was formed to promote a responsible, innovative future for agriculture in Ontario, by encouraging a scientific basis to all regulations, and to ensure that on-farm implementation of regulations is practical and in-line with the stated goals of any new regulations.
Only a week after the formation of Farm Action Now, the Ontario government announced new neonicotinoid seed treatment regulations with an unreasonable goal of 80% reduction by 2017, reinforcing the group’s concerns. The action by the provincial government signals a shift away from a sound science and evidence based regulatory environment and the coalition fears this may be the first of many impractical regulations imposed on agriculture.
The primary goal of Farm Action Now is to ensure that regulatory changes in agriculture are driven by a complete evaluation of the science and evidence available.
“We want the industry to grow, evolve and innovate, and we want every tool available to help do so,” says Craig Reid, Chair of Farm Action Now. “We are beginning a consultation process with all stakeholders — farmers, rural municipal representatives, and related industries — to develop a farmer- driven science-based vision for the sustainable future of Ontario agriculture,” explains Reid.
A steering committee was established at the second meeting of Farm Action Now to develop a strategy for the consultation process. The steering committee is comprised of representatives from several of the founding partners, including Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Bean Growers, Ontario Canola Growers Association, and Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Association.
A second goal of Farm Action Now is to explore the opportunity for an agricultural commissioner. “We would look to an agricultural commissioner to provide the practical insight and working knowledge of farming to government to ensure regulations are realistic on-farm,” explains Reid. “An agricultural commissioner would work as a ‘watchdog’ for the agricultural industry. Ideally, this person would have a vested interest in existing and future policy that affects agriculture and a deep knowledge of the agricultural sector to ensure the implementation of regulations is practical and reasonable.”
The coalition is off to a strong and ambitious start. Farm Action Now has a logo, a web presence at http://farmactionnow.com/ housing all Farm Action Now press releases to date, and a twitter account at https:// twitter.com/farmactionnow with over 300 followers at the time of this article. Coalition partners have been active spokespeople in numerous media interviews and demonstrated a strong presence, with Farm Action Now buttons, at the Premier’s Summit on Agri-Food near the end of November.
At the time of this article, the Farm Action Now is comprised of Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Bean Growers, Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, Ontario Pork, and Seed Corn Growers of Ontario. Other groups have expressed support for the coalition and it is poised to grow.
“It’s important for farmers to have a unified voice,” says Reid. “Those of us around the table of Farm Action Now have all expressed concerns about the possibility unrealistic regulations — from seed treatment to animal welfare — being imposed by government on Ontario’s farmers. We have witnessed the power of the non-farming community’s shared voice and we need to ensure our voices are heard just as clearly.” •