Ontario’s investments in agriculture for 2019
The governments of Canada and Ontario have invested in the province’s agri-food sector multiple times in 2019 to enhance environmental sustainability and help producers.
In 2019, the governments committed more than $17.6 million to support over 690 projects and other efforts to improve environmental practices and sustainability efforts in the agri-food sector. When factoring in additional funding from businesses and industry, a joint investment of $26.4 million was injected into Ontario’s agricultural sector.
Many of these funding commitments support industry-proposed, cost-shared initiatives to achieve outcomes like reducing soil erosion and retiring fragile lands from farming production.
These investments, supported with funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership also include funding a variety of research initiatives and other projects to enhance awareness and adoption of best management practices and improve sustainability in the sector.
Some of the actions supported this year include:
- The launch of the multi-year On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM) project. The ONFARM project will receive up to $5.75 million for the development of a science-based method to measure soil health across the province and improved understanding of the impact of best management practices, among many other activities.
- Investing $3.3 million to support more than 320 cost-shared, on-farm projects under the Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability (LEADS) initiative. These projects support farmers’ on-going efforts to enhance environmental sustainability and to improve water quality in the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds. The next application intake will open on January 15, 2020.
- Enhancing Environmental Farm Plan programming including making improvements to online processes related to updating and renewing these farm-specific plans developed in previous years.
- Co-funding research projects with organizations such as the Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ecological Farmers of Ontario and the Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association to enhance soil protection and to support precision agriculture in the province.
- Investing $6.5 million in 20 agriculture projects across northern Ontario, including tile drainage.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion commitment launched in 2018 by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments that supports Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. In addition to research supported by the Partnership, the Ontario government committed more than $2.2 million in 2019, to a variety of research projects designed to support increased environmental protections and sustainability in the agri-food sector.
Agriculture in the 2019 provincial budget
In April 2019, the new provincial government released their 2019 budget. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) commented at the time that the budget “included encouraging news about rural broadband and an accelerated capital cost allowance program,” but noted it “lacked details on how rural Ontario will fare on investments for hospitals, schools and mental health care.”
The budget included a $315 million investment in broadband technology across Ontario. A call for bids from market players was said to have been released before 2020, but until more is confirmed, this investment promises increased access to high-speed internet and better cell phone service for rural Ontario.
More consultation on risk management programming was also included in the 2019 budget, and the government “will explore ways to enhance the program in the future.” However, OFA notes that the promise of consultation comes up short when compared to an election promise by the Tory government to boost the cap on insurance for farmers from $100 to $150 million.
In addition to an injection of funding – into agriculture research, environmental initiatives and rural development – there also was the announcement of cuts. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) budget was cut to $839 million. This represents a decrease from its current budget: $1.1 billion in 2018-2019, and its previous budget of $1.06 billion in 2017-2018. When the budget was released, OFA commented that, “We are concerned with the OMAFRA budget cutbacks and will be reviewing these details carefully once spending estimates are available.”