Ontario Federation of Agriculture leaders meet annually early in the New Year with the provincial Minister of Finance to underline agriculture's contributions and needs. Here's a peek at what president Geri Kamenz will put forward this year to the minister:
"In our presentation to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, OFA will point out that agriculture ‘is the economic mainstay of hundreds of rural communities, creating and preserving employment and building stronger communities across our province.’
The OFA presentation will also state that ‘a strong agriculture sector is critical to maintaining the government’s commitment to building strong, sustainable communities and a healthy economy in rural Ontario.’ We know this to be true because more than 752,000 people in Ontario are employed in the production, processing and food distribution business, feeding and fueling a healthy and wealthy population.
As the provincial government moves forward with its next budget presentation, OFA believes it is essential that government officials know that continuing public investment in Ontario agriculture remains an important aspect of our industry’s growth and development for the future.
The latest production technology and marketing techniques are needed to ensure Ontario agriculture keeps its position on top of the world’s food production and delivery nations. For this to happen, we plan to tell Minister Duncan that investment in the industry is essential.
Ontario farmers are bound to be impacted by global influences – things like the higher value of the Canadian dollar and increasing energy costs. These factors have prompted the province to adjust its economic growth outlook for 2008. With this in mind, OFA will encourage Finance Minister Duncan to maintain an attitude of flexibility when planning for agriculture’s future.
We will ask Minister Duncan to base provincial economic planning around sector-specific proposals that will result in investments that will build opportunity, as well as policy changes needed to maintain a competitive tax and business environment for Ontario agriculture.
In the area of farm income programming, OFA will be asking the province to deliver a long-term commitment to viable risk management and income support programs based on industry-developed models. We also want production insurance products for livestock and horticultural crops.
Minister Duncan will be asked to participate in a federal-provincial buy-out program for Ontario tobacco growers, and a comprehensive plan to help mitigate the impacts of higher minimum wage regulations on the horticulture sector.
Economic factors have taken a toll on Ontario’s pork sector. OFA will be calling on the province to make strategic investments and establish a regulatory environment to retain and build Ontario agriculture’s processing and value-added capacity.
Ontario agriculture wants to be allowed to meet its potential in the energy production field. Governments play a significant role in the development and enforcement of energy policy. OFA is asking the province to allow agriculture to realize maximum benefits from the energy produced by agriculture.
Our presentation to Minister Duncan will also highlight the need for an updated schedule of compensation for wildlife damages to agriculture; recognition of agriculture’s contribution of ecological goods and services; a competitive tax environment for agriculture; and increased investment in agricultural research.
Agriculture wants to be able to make its maximum contribution to Ontario’s economy, but support from the provincial government will be essential."