By Larry Davis
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
From international trade talks to provincial and federal government issues, the agri-food sector finds itself in the spotlight – and not always in a way that represents the real value and strength it brings to the economy. When Ontario votes for municipal government representatives on October 22, let’s make sure they know how important the agri-food sector is to the prosperity of local municipalities and rural communities across Ontario.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) encourages its members to get involved with the municipal candidates in their region. It’s critical that everyone running for public office understands the issues that affect our livelihood and our rural communities. Whoever we elect will be in a position to impact policies and bylaws that determine the way we operate our farm businesses. So let’s make sure they understand what’s important to the agri-food sector.
OFA has created a document to outline the key issues for our sector, it’s called Agriculture Matters – a Guide for Municipal Councillors and Staff and it’s posted at ofa.on.ca/GrowAg. It’s a detailed package of information on four municipal issues that affect Ontario agriculture – land use planning and economic development, environment and animal welfare, energy, and infrastructure and social services.
The guide is presented in an easy-to-follow format for the four key issue areas – breaking each one down into the component parts and clearly outlining what the issue is, why it matters to farmers, how municipal politicians can help and links to additional resources.
Under land use planning and economic development, we cover issues including zoning bylaws, rural economic development, farm property tax and broadband internet. The section on environment and animal welfare includes information on nutrient management, predators, drainage and water. Energy is a key section that covers the need for natural gas and alternative energy opportunities on farm. Under infrastructure and social services, we cover the need for roads and bridges, as well as emergency services, rural child care and rural school closures.
Ontario agriculture is a vital industry in the province. We are an economic powerhouse generating $13.7 billion in GDP every year in Ontario. And when you include the food manufacturing sector, we create more than 800,000 jobs for Ontarians. That’s more than any other sector in Ontario.
Let’s make sure the issues that impact Ontario agriculture, our farm businesses and our rural communities have a strong voice in the October 22 municipal election. Get involved in all-candidates meetings and other events in your area. And make sure all your local candidates know the issues that are important to their constituents, and direct them to OFA’s guide for municipal councillors at ofa.on.ca/GrowAg