THIS IS MY first column as CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. At the time of writing, I have officially been in the role for a month. And what a month it has been. I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the unprecedented circumstances we all find ourselves in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to the support of the Board of Directors and staff of Grain Farmers of Ontario, the leadership transition has gone relatively smoothly. We have been able to continue business as usual with our staff working remotely at home. In fact, we are busier than ever adapting our programs, particularly in research, market development, and public events, to ensure they can still move forward and not lose important multi-year project gains.
Much of our work has focused on advocating for government support for grain farmers to keep their businesses viable and helping our farmer-members manage issues resulting from the government emergency measures implemented to restrict the spread of the virus.
I think we have all learned that we can sometimes take for granted the supply chain we are a part of, and how much we rely on it running smoothly. From farm inputs to final distribution at the grocery store, there are many links. We have seen before, such as with the rail disruptions this past year, the significant impact even one broken link can cause. The challenge now is how quickly can we adapt to multiple broken links along the supply chain.
Grain Farmers of Ontario is working with industry partners and government representatives to minimize the disruptions to the supply chain. We are focusing on the importance of the transportation sector and the need to keep inter-provincial and international borders open to agriculture supplies and exports.
Our goal is to help farmers and their farm businesses remain strong enough to weather the pandemic, rather than trying to recoup losses later when it may be too late. That is why we have made it a priority to focus on the need for government support programs for farmers.
Without government support, we will see even more disruptions in our food supply as grain farmers struggle to produce the grain that feeds livestock and helps to fill the shelves at the grocery store. We continue to highlight the key role farmers play in the provincial economy — now and during the economic recovery that will be needed once the pandemic ends.
Farmers are not only the backbone of the economy they are also the backbone of rural communities. Farmers are known for helping out their neighbours, and that generosity often grows during times of struggle. At the direction of the Board of Directors, Grain Farmers of Ontario made a donation to Feed Ontario to help meet the increased demand on food banks across the province during the pandemic. Several Districts have also made donations to local organizations to directly support the needs within their own communities.
This generosity of spirit is what makes me proud to be the new CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. We can’t pretend that everything is fine; every part of our daily lives has been impacted by COVID-19. But if we continue to work together, we will get through this pandemic and any future challenges the agriculture industry will face. •