A YEAR GOES by fast.
At this time last year, I took on the role of CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario. And it has been quite the year. No one could have anticipated the challenges that we faced in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues longer than any of us thought that it would. The resilience of our farms, our communities, and our organization was tested; but we adapted. The work I saw being done by staff and our Board of Directors spoke to the dedication we have to serving our farmer-members.
It’s easy to get fixated on what’s different as a result of COVID-19 — working remotely, no physical meetings, no events. But if you take a step back, you realize that some things are still the same. Our work on government relations, research, market development, and communications continued to garner results.
A significant achievement for our organization was the development of our new Strategic Plan. I’m excited about the future direction this provides us. It clearly lays out our core focus areas, highlights farm sustainability as a guiding principle, and builds on the success of the things we have already been doing well. The plan also highlights diversity, equality, and inclusion — we are committed to embracing these principles and taking action to ensure everyone feels welcome and represented by their organization.
Our government relations work is more important than ever. We will continue to stand up for our farmer-members to shield them from government policies that put them at a competitive disadvantage and don’t accomplish policy goals of government. During the past year, we had a positive response to additional funding for the Risk Management Program. We managed to secure significant changes to the proposed Clean Fuel Regulation and continue to address areas of concern. We have seen positive reductions in regulations and red tape at the provincial level. And we have seen biofuels recognized as a key part of an environmental strategy.
We will continue to look for opportunities for grain farmers to play a positive, active role in meeting the environmental goals of our society. We recognize that reducing carbon is a global priority. Farmers are already doing many things that our society values; part of the challenge is gaining appropriate recognition. We want government to work with farmers rather than increasing our cost of production through carbon taxes. Farmers have reduced their climate impact by 45 per cent in corn production and 36 per cent in wheat production over the past 30 years. Given the right incentives and tools, farmers can achieve even more in the next 30 years. Farmers can lead the economic recovery post-COVID-19.
I am committed to leading the staff of Grain Farmers of Ontario to address all of these challenges and others as they arise in the coming months and years. I also look forward to working with Brendan Byrne, the newly elected chair of our Board of Directors, and our new Executive Committee. They have a strong grasp of the issues affecting our farmer-members and a commitment to supporting the efforts of our organization. Together, the staff and the Board are a strong team, with a proven track record of success. I know we will continue that success into the future. •