Province aims to strengthen farmer input with new committee

The heads of farmer, processor and agribusiness associations will be vice chairs of the committee

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The Ontario government has released details on the structure and operations of its new agriculture advisory committee.

The task force, first announced in November, is intended to strengthen the competitiveness of the province’s agriculture sector while working with industry on farm issues, the initiative was greeted with praise by Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Why it matters: The previous provincial government was accused of being out of touch with rural Ontario. The creation of an agriculture committee to provide input to the province should help create more dialogue between the agriculture sector and the province.

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Ag-leaders playing major role

Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s agriculture minister, says agri-food business leaders “know what’s best for expanding the sector.”

“I look forward to working with them on the issues that impact the industry, and how our government can help support the sector now and for the long term,” Hardeman says.

This sentiment is the reason why Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Norm Beal, chief executive officer for Food and Beverage Ontario (FBO), and Dave Buttenham, chief executive officer of the Ontario Agri-Business Association (OABA), will all hold vice-chair positions on what’s being called the Minister’s Advisory Committee.

The Committee will hold its initial meeting early in the new year. Subsequent meetings will be held on a regular basis, all discussing issues that impact Ontario’s agriculture sector. Input from the OFA, FBO, and OABA, will help ensure policies and programs foster economic growth without imposing additional regulatory burdens, or costs, on farmers or agri-food businesses, the province said in a statement.

Reflective of GFO recommendation

Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) says the proposed task force directly aligns with a growth-strategy recommendation made to the province during the May election.

More specifically, GFO recommended the province “assemble a nimble alliance of industry and government innovators under the leadership of the Premier to devise a growth strategy for the grains and oilseeds sector.”

“There are many multi-faceted challenges in agriculture – some that are being seen this harvest, and others that have great economic impact and benefit sustainability. It’s vital that leaders in agriculture have a voice in policy discussions to explain these complexities,” says Markus Haerle, chair for GFO.

“We are pleased to see the government listen and respond to the priority and ask we promoted before the election.”

As things currently stand, the now formulated Committee will focus on the needs of the agriculture sector in general. Randy Pettapiece, parliamentary assistant to minister Hardeman, will hold the position of chair – not the Premier.

As for the OFA, Currie said the organization will have a better idea of what to expect once the initial meeting is held in 2019. Objectives will be determined after that point.

“Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector is the backbone of the provincial economy,” says Currie.

“With tremendous potential and growth opportunities available for the agri-food sector, I am pleased that Minister Hardeman is looking to the industry for ways to unlock that potential and achieve those opportunities while tackling current issues collaboratively. I would like to thank the Minister for the opportunity to be part of that future.”

About the author

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Matt is a freelance writer based between Essex County and Chatham-Kent. He is interested in all things scientific, as well as rock n' roll, hunting and history. He also works with his parents on their sixth-generation family farm.

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