OFA disappointed with process of Growing Forward plan
By Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The Growing Forward plan from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was supposed to take consultations with farmers, their organizations and other stakeholders seriously. However, many feel their input was not considered.
June 6, 2008
Earlier this year the Federal Government conducted a session to introduce those of us involved with agriculture to the Growing Forward plan from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Consultations with farmers, their organizations and other stakeholders in the agri-food sector were expected to be uppermost in the process as we moved forward.
Many of those same individuals and groups came together again at the end of May in Winnipeg to examine reports on the consultations conducted by federal government officials. As we compared notes, many of the stakeholders were left questioning the goodwill of the process. It appeared the results and recommendations had been prepared and given official status without considering the input from stakeholders.
As an Ontario representative, it is concerning to see no reference in the new document to the Environmental Farm Plan program, something that has developed an impressive reputation within Ontario. Farmers in other provinces have found it worthy of copying, but now federal bureaucrats are prepared to dump it, proposing Agri-environmental Risk Assessments as a replacement.
The EFP program has been a great example of governments working in partnership with farmers to implement on-farm improvements to protect the environment. While there has been government dollars used for this work, the program has attracted millions of dollars from farmers and hundreds of hours of their time and use of their equipment.
Statistics tell us more than 30,000 Ontario farmers have participated in the EFP program. That represents hundreds of millions of dollars invested in improving the environment on farms across the province.
All of this provides a simple illustration of why Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, is prepared to attend the next meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture and fight for the continuation of agricultural programming that will benefit all Ontario farmers.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture continues to be a strong supporter of the EFP program. That’s why OFA will working with Minister Dombrowsky at that next conference of the nation’s agriculture ministers to make the case to continue EFP programs across Canada. It has been a huge success in Ontario, and we believe farmers in other provinces deserve the opportunity to make it an equal success on their farms.
There are other initiatives in the Growing Forward proposal from the federal government that could prove valuable to Canadian farmers and the agri-food industry – such things as a bioeconomy strategy, the establishment of science clusters, science to support commercialization of new agri-based products, and support for national organizations to enhance the skills and knowledge of youth entering agriculture.
OFA and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture are prepared to work with representatives from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to develop other program initiatives that would bring improvements to Canadian agriculture. If such joint ventures are to succeed however, AAFC will have to show greater respect for the expertise of farmers involved.
For now, our focus will be on keeping the Environmental Farm Plan program and all the advantages it holds for Ontario farmers and farmers in other provinces. It has proven to be too valuable to the environment to be tossed aside on a whim.