COLUMN: Farmers push for sustainability during federal election campaign

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“Farmers are the natural stewards of the land. They depend on air, soil and water to carry out their activities and have a vested interest in the sustainability of these resources, ”said OFA vice president.

The following is from Mark Reusser, Vice-President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
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The agriculture and food industry is a key driver of the Canadian economy, ensuring that our grocery shelves remain well stocked and our food supply chain is strong and viable. Every day, our farmers take another step to ensure the resilience of the province’s food supply chain by growing healthy and sustainable food locally.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is committed to ensuring that our sector’s priorities remain at the forefront of the concerns of our government decision-makers as we move towards a federal election. As Canada emerges from the pandemic and navigates the path to recovery, agriculture will remain a key engine in rebuilding our economy.

During the pandemic, Ontario farmers have worked tirelessly to ensure our local communities have constant access to a safe, nutritious and affordable source of food, with a focus on protecting health and safety. the security of our vital workforce.

As the primary agricultural advocate for Ontario’s agri-food sector and rural communities, we will ensure our 38,000 farm families across the province have the tools, resources and support they need to play an important role in the economic recovery. .

Throughout this election, the OFA will meet with government decision-makers and leaders of various political parties to ensure that the needs of the agricultural sector remain at the forefront. Our leaders will advocate for the environmental sustainability of our agri-food sector, a fair carbon pricing policy, revisions to the current business risk management program and access to a skilled workforce.

Farmers are the natural stewards of the land. They depend on air, soil and water to carry out their activities and have a vested interest in the sustainability of these resources. Ontario farmers have made significant investments in environmental stewardship initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate change. Farmers manage grasslands, woodlands, pastures and field crops, all part of a healthy and sustainable carbon cycle. Managing these landscapes benefits all Canadians and puts quality, locally produced food on our tables.

As agriculture continues to evolve and practices modernize, our hope is to continue research, innovation and adaptation of best practices or emerging technologies to ensure environmental sustainability across the agrifood sector. .

We call on political parties to do their part in developing, supporting and funding programs that recognize the environmental goods and services provided by farmers. Funding for these environmental goods and services will recognize the role of the agricultural sector in achieving environmental stewardship achievements, which in turn will benefit the entire province.

Carbon pricing continues to be a priority for our organization as we strive to mitigate climate change. Climate change continues to have a drastic impact on the ability of our farmers to produce a healthy abundance of local foods and threatens our food supply chain. Our farmers need mitigation tools such as machines for drying grain, heating and cooling livestock, and irrigation.

Unfortunately, such mitigation tools require energy, and the ability to switch to other sources or to change behavior is limited or not possible under certain circumstances.

Carbon pricing policies are currently in place to provide economic disincentives to carbon emitters to encourage reductions in their emissions. At this time, there are no incentive programs to compensate those who already follow carbon sequestration and emission reduction practices. Since there is currently no substitute for fossil fuels for agricultural production, the current carbon tax system cannot boost conservation efforts on farms and only serves to reduce agricultural margins already. thin.

The OFA calls on political parties to support the granting of exemptions or discounts to farmers when there are no feasible alternatives. We call on parties to ensure that revenues are collected from any carbon pricing initiative used to support agricultural research, innovation, adaptation measures and resilience building.

Meeting labor force needs has been a long-standing challenge in Ontario’s agri-food sector. There is a continuing need for skilled workers on Canadian farms and across the agri-food industry. Labor shortages are putting our country’s economy at risk and threatening the ability of farmers to supply our grocery stores. We want to make sure employers across the industry have the people they need to grow our economy and feed Canadians.

We are asking for the support of the main political party to work with the agri-food industry to develop a Canadian Agri-Food Work Strategy and to support our sector in the development of education programs. The OFA is also seeking continued support for current programs in place that aim to address labor shortages across the country, such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. Finally, we are counting on the federal government to support investments in research, innovation, automation and labor-saving initiatives.

Our final priority that we are bringing to the fore is access to stronger business risk management (BRM) programs to help provide financial support to farmers when they experience losses due to risks beyond their control. We believe that as the only farm-wide ERM program, AgriStability requires revisions to better protect farmers in situations of uncertainty.

We call on the government to continue to provide farmers with stronger and more reliable access to BRM programs. Effective policies and programs are being developed under the next Agricultural Policy Framework to help farmers manage risk, market volatility and on-farm diversification. Agriculture is engaged in this ongoing conversation.

The OFA will continue to work for our farm families in Ontario to ensure that the agri-food sector and rural communities are considered in any new and changing legislation, regulations or policies that impact profitability and sustainability. agricultural businesses.

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