Keith Currie has been acclaimed as president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for another one-year term.
Currie will be joined by re-elected vice presidents Peggy Brekveld and Mark Reusser. Drew Spoelstra will be the other executive member, as elected by the board of directors.
Hugh Simpson was elected as the member-at-large by the delegates at the annual meeting of the OFA held in Hamilton in late November.
“We’re going to be continuing the Producing Prosperity theme,” Currie said. “We’ve gained a lot of traction politically with our distributed economic development push, so we’re going to continue to push on that.”
The Producing Prosperity program was introduced by the OFA a year ago to push for policy that will improve the economic development of rural Ontario and the business climate for Ontario farmers. Critical to that plan is the expansion of natural gas infrastructure and rural broadband internet.
“We are going to adopt that policy around the CFA (Canadian Federation of Agriculture) board table to include it in next fall’s federal election.”
Currie said mental wellness, especially with the stress on crop farmers with the high vomitoxin corn crop, is also top of mind. He said he has had preliminary discussions with Christine Elliott, Ontario’s health minister about some of the funding that has been promised for mental wellness coming to agriculture.
He said they will continue to work on the every-day agriculture political issues in agriculture as well.
Corn crop toxins a concern
The high-vomitoxin corn crop was also a topic of conversation at the OFA convention.
Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, spoke at the convention and said that farmers need to remember that there’s not much they could have done to prevent the outbreak of DON (deoxynivalenol)-infected corn.
He held a meeting in mid-November with the crop sector and he said there was a discussion on how to manage the high-DON corn.
Andrea Horvath, leader of Ontario’s New Democratic Party, acknowledged at the meeting that farmers are challenged.
“I know it’s a tough year for farmers, with drought in the spring and summer and grain farmers having a difficult harvest this fall,” she said.
Natural gas getting some momentum
Both Hardeman and Horvath spoke about the OFA’s long-time push for greater natural gas infrastructure for rural residents and farmers.
“I can tell you when it comes to the issue of natural gas, I’ve heard it over and over and over again and heard it for years now. Folks can’t wait any longer to get those gas lines built,” she said.
Hardeman said the Conservative’s approach to natural gas expansion follows the plan put forward by the OFA.
“The people of rural Ontario have asked and we are listening,” he said.