FROM THE EDITOR: October 2007

January 17, 2008
Written by
Having friends in high places.  "Challenges are well presented in the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance report."
Farm groups rarely receive the political attention afforded big industry, despite the fact that farming is indeed big business. For example, it’s the second largest industry in Ontario, runner-up only to the auto sector, and employs some 650,000 people.

Just about the only time agriculture gets the attention of politicians is at election time. And Ontario is going to the polls on Oct. 10.

A Canadian Press story early last month by reporter Michael Oliveira quoted Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Geri Kamenz as being especially buoyed by the attention agriculture was receiving from all three major parties. Kamenz said he was humming Christmas carols. “The tune I could not get out of my head for the rest of the day, and I kid you not, was ‘It’s (Beginning) To Look A Lot Like Christmas,’’’ Kamenz was quoted as saying. “There has been just a whole pile of announcements targeted at agriculture.”

All three parties have reportedly announced efforts to better help farmers with risk management planning. They’ve also pledged to better promote Ontario-grown produce and to encourage shoppers to buy local.

In that same story, Kamenz said that while he won’t endorse a party, he is happy the leaders are all taking the concerns of agriculture seriously. “The parties recognize the needs, the economic stress that the industry has been in for the last three years, and recognize that it really does take some strategic investments to reposition the industry as a profitable secure industry for the future.”

Earlier this year, the Ontario and federal governments announced funding commitments totaling $28 million towards revitalizing the 101-year-old Vineland Research Station.

The greenhouse sector is a major component of Ontario agriculture. A 2006 study commissioned by The Ontario Greenhouse Alliance found the sector generates some $3.9 billion in direct and indirect economic activity. The report authors concluded that: “The Ontario greenhouse agriculture sector is competitive and successful in international markets, generates a healthy balance of trade, is on the cutting edge of advanced technology, and has critical mass unparalleled in North America.”

TOGA recently released a report outlining how the levels of government can better support the Ontario industry. It addresses such issues as energy and labour costs, taxation, marketing and international trade, product safety, industry leadership, and business risk management. The challenges and solutions are well presented.

“With the ongoing support of government, the young and vibrant Ontario greenhouse sector of agriculture will continue to be a vital economic driver and success story. Solutions to the serious competitive challenges facing the industry will be cooperatively developed through policies, programs and measures implemented after appropriate consultations,” notes the report.
It’s not just a question of getting the attention of politicians, but of explaining the unique needs of each sector. The TOGA report is a model document that achieves those goals.

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