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Efforts to sustain Ontario agriculture


April 12, 2010
By Bette Jean Crews

April 12, 2010 – Thousands of Ontario farmers, producers
of a wide variety of commodities, are seeing their economic position
deteriorating.


April 12, 2010 – Thousands of Ontario farmers, producers
of a wide variety of commodities, are seeing their economic position
deteriorating. They have joined together in the Ontario Agriculture
Sustainability Coalition and are calling on the federal and provincial
governments to take action to sustain their farms.

About 300 of them came
together recently at a meeting in Stratford to talk about what has to be done
to return their sectors to economic viability. An investment in agriculture by
governments is needed to keep these farmers on the land. Without government
investment these farmers will lose their operations.

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Ontario farmers are
calling for a predictable and bankable program to secure and sustain farm
businesses that can invest and innovate now and into the future. Immediate
action is needed at both the federal and provincial levels – changes to
the AgriStability program that will work for Ontario farmers, and a Business
Risk Management Program that will sustain Ontario agriculture.

 betty_jean_crew
 Bette Jean Crews

Our political leaders at
Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food
and Rural Affairs need to appreciate the economic importance of Ontario
agriculture, and why it is critical to sustain our industry.

At Stratford, the media
learned that agriculture, food production and processing is one of Ontario’s
most important employers and economic engines. There are more than 80,000 farm
jobs in Ontario across about 57,000 farms. When the entire production,
processing, retailing and transportation partnership is included, more than
712,000 jobs are involved, contributing about $28 billion to the Ontario
economy.

We all heard that if our
critical mass of declining farm production is broached our processing sector
and its thousands of jobs will leave the province. This would be a devastating
blow to our rural and our urban economies.  Governments need to know and
act on this critical warning.

Ontario farmers’ only
protection against a large margin drop comes from the AgriStability program.
Ontario farmers have clearly said that AgriStability does not work for them –
that it needs to be repaired. As reference margins shrink or go negative,
AgriStability provides little to no assistance to producers.

Ontario farmers need a
cost-of-production based Business Risk Management Program from January 2009 to
run in concert with an improved AgriStability program. This proposal would fund
100 per cent of the difference between the average market price and a floor
price that’s based on the cost of producing each commodity.

This message needs to
come from all farmers: farmers need to contact their federal and provincial
members of government. We all need to contact Prime Minister Harper, Premier
McGuinty, AAFC Minister Ritz, and OMAFRA Minister Mitchell to make sure they
clearly understand not only our situation, but also how critical it is that
Canada invests in its farmers right now. They need to realize that
consumers – the voters – want locally produced food from sustainable Ontario
farms. Our voices must be heard. 

It is a busy time on the
farm right now. Planting is always a time of hope. So please take some
time to nourish that hope by making a call or sending an email to demand
political action to sustain our farms. 

You
can find the latest information to take to the politicians at the OASC web site
www.oasc.ca.

Bette Jean Crews is president of the Ontario
Federation of Agriculture.


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