by Peggy Brekveld, Vice-president, OFA
Special to the AgriNews
Ontario’s agri-food industry is a powerhouse for the province and we’ve got room to grow – that’s the message the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) took to the halls and offices of Queen’s Park on Dec. 9.
OFA, together with the Ontario Agri Business Association (OABA) and Food and Beverage Ontario (FBO), presented the state of the agri-food industry in Ontario. This presentation was delivered both to media in attendance and broadcasted throughout Queen’s Park. The overview set the stage for one-on-one meetings with OFA directors, representatives and MPPs to discuss the needs and opportunities for the agri-food sector.
The overview included key economic indicators. From farm-level production to value-added food processing, Ontario’s agri-food industry supports $8.1-billion in annual wages and salaries. We also generate more than 837,000 jobs for Ontarians and contribute more than $47-billion to Ontario’s annual GDP.
For those of us on the ground, it’s been a tough year in the agri-food industry – there have been market disruptions, trade issues, weather and labour disputes. Despite the challenges of the 2019 season, OFA highlighted ongoing progress on select agricultural files that the provincial government has taken action on this year – we’ve seen progress in red tape reduction, natural gas expansion and broadband across the province, and more recently the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act and the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.
These are all long-standing issues OFA has been addressing with government, and while there’s still plenty of work to do to finalize details and deliver on promises made, OFA is encouraged by the progress made this year.
We also have four key priorities for 2020 that need focus from the provincial government. These aren’t new priorities, but like many other issues OFA advocates for, we’ll continue bringing them to the table until the needs of our members are met. OFA’s priorities for the provincial government include: the continued call for natural gas across Ontario, reliable high-speed internet access for rural and northern communities, support for a strong rural school network, and the need for investments to support better infrastructure such as roads and bridges throughout rural Ontario.
Open and ongoing dialogue with the provincial government, staff and policymakers is important to OFA as we look ahead to 2020. It’s another reason our organization travels to Queen’s Park regularly to host events and meetings like these. It’s our job to speak on behalf of our 38,000 farm business members. We bring your issues and concerns to elected officials and ensure Ontario’s agri-food industry – our strength and our numbers – remain strong and top of mind with government. OFA’s December Queen’s Park event was a success, with positive, productive conversations and agreements to continue the dialogue.