Two farmers have been nominated to be the director for Elgin and Oxford Counties Federation of Agriculture.
Dairy farmer Tracey Arts and sheep farmer Art Alblas have both stepped forward to replace Melissa Schneider, who stepped down. Usually a three-year term, the new director would replace Schneider for the rest of her term, until November, 2021.
Voting begins in mid-March. OFA members in Oxford and Elgin Counties will be mailed a ballot and will have about four weeks to vote by mail or by phone.
Here are some details of the two nominees.
ART ALBLAS (age 63)
Background: Cash crop and sheep farmer at St. Thomas in Elgin County. Also worked for Masterfeeds for 30 years.
Biggest issues: Trespassing is a big issue, he said, adding that there is legislation coming from the province that deals with it. Alblas says while much of the focus has been on activists, there is also another benefit of the legislation. For instance, Alblas sometimes has ATV riders riding through his fields. The new trespassing fines may be enough of a deterrent to stop them.
Another issue is the lack of people to fill jobs on farms and in agri-businesses. “We are so short of people wanting to work in the agri-food industry,” he said. “If we could find a way to build a skilled work force, it would be a real benefit.” He said part of the solution might be going to urban and suburban high schools to inform students that there are career choices in agriculture, and to help students realize you don’t need to be a farmer to be in the industry.
TRACEY ARTS (age 43)
Background: Operates a dairy farm in Oxford County and in Middlesex County. She is also a member of the board of the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture.
Biggest issues: Problems getting permits for construction of barns, feed bunks and other farm buildings, Arts said. Part of the issue is that each county has different regulations. “There are different rules and regulations depending on where you are and we want to make it more uniform across Ontario, so that it’s fair,” she said.
Another issue has to do with half-load laws, where heavy equipment can’t go on unpaved roads in the spring and fall. Most equipment has to carry a third to half load. For Arts’ dairy farm, it takes three dump trucks to deliver one dump-truck load of sand for bedding. Some commodities have exemptions and the hope is to get an exemption for bedding. “(The driver is) probably running that road three times instead of one, which is probably doing more damage to the road,” she said. “Most of the roads in Oxford County have been updated, but the roads Act is outdated.”