Election season is upon us. With the provincial election taking place on June 2, parties are releasing platforms and making promises. The question for CFFO and our members is where agriculture falls on the political agenda.
What’s the Issue?
We need government to work collaboratively with industry to ensure agri-food sector success. To do that, we must elect representatives who will keep agriculture on the agenda.
During our annual winter Policy Tour, CFFO prepared for the coming election by canvassing our members on the issues most important to them. They raised concerns over major economic factors affecting their ability to run sustainable farm businesses.
What Does CFFO Want to See?
Firstly, attention must be paid to the needs of small and medium-sized businesses in the food supply chain, especially processing facilities. The abattoir shortage has been a strain on the system for years, but there are workable solutions. For example, CFFO sees the need for a culture shift in processing, so that processors and food inspectors can work collaboratively to protect food safety and reduce waste.
Secondly, access to skilled farm labour continues to be a challenge. The shortage made provincial and national news during the pandemic, but problems existed long before that. We need policies to build Ontario’s skilled labour force all along the supply chain, from skilled farm labour to workers in processing and transportation. Even more veterinarians are needed.
Thirdly, Ontario needs improved access to inter-provincial trade. Many farmers are looking to grow their businesses but are limited by market access. There’s opportunity to be found in larger Canadian markets, but growth will require help from government.
Finally, a key concern among members has been carbon pricing. While most CFFO members share a common desire to do their part for the environment, carbon pricing can be debilitating. What’s worse, it’s often unavoidable for necessary farm practices where no energy alternative exists. Carbon pricing should be kept low for essential things like food production, at least until solutions for lower energy technologies are accessible to the average farmer.
These issues ought to matter to government as much as to our members. The agri-food sector is a cornerstone of the Ontario economy. We have weathered many challenges and have proven to be resilient in the face of pandemic slowdowns, labour shortages and unpredictable environmental and geopolitical challenges.
Despite these challenges, there is significant opportunity for growth, but we’re going to need innovation and the political will to help us achieve it. We must elect people who are keeping agriculture on the agenda and open to working with industry to ensure agri-food sector success.
For more information on Keeping Agriculture on the Agenda, visit www.christianfarmers.org/Election2022.
Ed Scharringa is President of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.