by Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
There’s something exciting about starting a brand new year. The opportunities and possibilities are endless, and turning the calendar allows us to start with a clean slate for another growing season. And who doesn’t want to put the harvest challenges of 2018 behind us?
At the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), we’re kicking off 2019 with a renewed focus on our advocacy work for the agri-food sector and rural communities. Many of our key areas for this year are a continuation of the advocacy we set out in our Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign – a call for greater infrastructure investments in the agri-food sector that will build capacity and create greater economic development in our communities.
Natural gas continues to be a big priority. The provincial government has announced some plans for expanded natural gas and we are waiting for more details. We continue to push for complete access to affordable natural gas across the entire province. Our farms and rural businesses depend on it to remain competitive.
Another key infrastructure requirement to keep us connected and competitive is high speed internet in rural and northern communities. Rural Ontario continues to be disadvantaged compared to our urban neighbours, when it comes to our ability to connect for services, information, e-commerce and education.
OFA will continue to focus on the need for a stable rural school network. Schools provide a critical hub for our communities that extend beyond the school day, and we are working with government to ensure there is a solid process for evaluating and assessing rural schools.
Our communities also depend on continuous infrastructure improvements to ensure our roads and bridges support the movement of agricultural equipment.
Water quality is another key priority for OFA. As part of the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative, we continue to work together on this team to reduce phosphorus losses to Lake Erie.
We also will be watching closely as the provincial government releases its plan for reducing red tape and regulations, to ensure the impacts on the agri-food sector are considered.
We have a busy year ahead with work on a broad range of files that impact the ability of our 38,000 farm members to operate sustainable and productive farm businesses. I’m looking forward to the prospects for a productive and prosperous year for Ontario’s agri-food sector in 2019.