by Peggy Brekveld, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Working together, and collaborating with other organizations during the pandemic, has been vital in keeping the agri-food sector strong and addressing the ongoing issues that our industry continues to face. This year, more than ever, our industry has come together as many voices, with one message, to better support Ontario farmers.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recognizes that, as we navigate through a global pandemic, there are many competing issues, priorities, and concerns that continue to take precedence throughout the province. Many don’t realize that a strong domestic agri-food sector is the key to food security, economic recovery, and growth.
When challenges arise, the agri-food industry has been able to come together as one to best support, not only Ontario farmers, but the provincial economy and families across the province. As Ontario’s largest general farm organization, OFA has the ability to build bridges, strengthen connections, and support the 200 commodities and agri-food stakeholders across our province.
Throughout the pandemic, our industry has been able to come together to tackle critical issues that have threatened the structure and wellbeing of our sector. Earlier this year, a freedom-of-information (FOI) request was filed asking for the names and farm business registration numbers of all farms in Ontario. OFA, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, and National Farmers Union – Ontario were able to collaborate on this issue and effectively mediate the situation, ensuring that the request was withdrawn.
When Bill 156, the “Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019″, was introduced, Ontario’s livestock and poultry commodity organizations, the food processing sector, and OFA worked together to strongly support and advocate for the legislation to be passed. On a national scale, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, commodity organizations, and provincial organizations, such as OFA, have been advocating for changes to improve the AgriStability program to help manage production and market risks. The ongoing collaborative effort that agri-food organizations are taking has been well received at the recent Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agriculture Ministers’ meeting.
The agri-food industry is diverse, with many organizations advocating for support. We are stronger when we can forge and strengthen partnerships and speak up for agriculture as one voice.
This year, OFA has been able to collaborate with organizations to advocate for the industry and produce resources to help spread awareness or support individuals through various labour initiatives. OFA was able to work alongside Meat and Poultry Ontario, and livestock representatives, on a Meat and Poultry Growth Strategy, to launch a series of training videos through the Feeding Your Future initiative.
We have also been able to work with rural and municipal organizations to expand broadband internet across rural Ontario, and countless other initiatives and committees at the local, provincial, and national level.
OFA staff and board members will continue to expand our network and collaborate with industry stakeholders through 2021, identifying new ways to support and grow the agri-food industry, and achieve our priorities.
The future of agri-food depends on the strength of our industry’s voices collectively. As the African proverb states, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’