By Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Last week’s provincial budget announcement provided Ontarians plenty of material to sift through. From budget cuts to investment promises, the government appeared to include something for everyone in the 343-page document.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is reviewing the details and implications the budget will have on our provincial agri-food industry. But we are most intrigued by the 2019 budget vision statement that states farmers and rural communities have a partner at Queen’s Park.
A government partnership is exactly what Ontario’s agri-food industry needs. A collaborative partner that has the best interests of farmers and rural communities in its sights would be ideal. OFA would like to see the Ontario government’s partnership extend to acknowledging the true economic value of our industry and prioritizing the province’s largest economic contributor – the diverse agriculture and food sector. As a partner, OFA wants and expects to be consulted on legislative decisions, regulations and budget allocations.
As the largest advocate for Ontario farmers and rural communities, OFA has long proposed a partnership with government that would enable open discussions, consultations and proper investments allocated to our sector to enable growth and development. Ontario’s agriculture and food sector continues to provide real economic benefit for all Ontarians and, with prudent investments it can do more.
OFA will be meeting with government to ensure agriculture and rural communities receive a fair share of the monies committed and that the promised investments in broadband, childcare, hospitals, community care, mental health and housing support make their way to rural Ontario.
OFA will also be addressing the announced cuts to OMAFRA services that Ontario’s farmers rely on. We will voice concern that our sector is being shortchanged by this budget line item. Partnership is a two-way street that requires real commitment from both sides
We understand that cost cutting is necessary for a balanced budget. Ontario’s agri-food industry and rural communities welcome consultations with government to discuss fiscal responsibility. Cutting is only one half of the equation. Rural Ontario can also help address the deficit by continuing to show we are “A Place to Grow”. With the proper infrastructure investments, red tape reduction and a skilled labour force we will grow our industry and our rural economies.
Sound investments generate positive returns. And good partnerships make great things happen.