YOU LIKELY HEARD the announcement in July that the provincial government increased the Risk Management Program (RMP) by $50 million, bringing the government’s contribution to the fund to $150 million annually. I hope that you were encouraged by this improvement to the program and took advantage of the program enrolment that was offered at the time.
What you likely didn’t hear about, was the amount of time and effort put in by Grain Farmers of Ontario to get the government to make this investment. I want to acknowledge the work and dedication of our Board of Directors, staff, and farmer-members that went on behind the scenes over the past two years, since the last provincial election, to ensure the change to RMP funding wasn’t just an idle campaign promise. The successful implementation of the increase is an acknowledgement by the government that there is a need to represent farmers. It is also an acknowledgement of the important work that we do as an organization.
Our organization represents 28,000 farmer-members, but it isn’t just farmers who will benefit from this increase or any other increase to government support programs. When government invests in farmers, it allows farmers to invest in the province and fuel an even broader economic engine. Grain farming provides 75,000 jobs in Ontario and results in more than $18 billion in economic output. The potential is there for us to have an even bigger impact if we have the confidence to make new investments in our businesses.
RMP is just one program and it won’t alleviate all of our concerns nor will it provide all of the support we need while we are under the added uncertainty of COVID-19 and seeing declining prices as a result of U.S. grain subsidies and various trade wars. A recent survey of our farmer-members told us that more than half of you fear you won’t be able to cover the cost of production this year. The majority of you say you can’t compete against U.S. subsidies and you want and need a level playing field.
Grain Farmers of Ontario will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of its farmer-members to improve the other support programs that have failed to adapt to the needs of modern agriculture. For example, we are working on garnering the support of the federal government to make changes to AgriStability that would restore coverage to 85 per cent and remove the reference margin limit.
The public has a vested interest in farmers doing well — we are the ones who grow the food that they feed to their families. The Ontario government’s investment in us is a signal that they recognize the work that we do and the importance of our role in the province. We thank them for listening to our needs, and we will make good on that investment and provide a greater return. •