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Is Ottawa committed to sustainability of farming?


March 1, 2010
By By Bette Jean Crews

March 1, 2010 – Partners in the Ontario Agriculture
Sustainability Coalition find themselves up against a brick wall when
they turn
for action to Gerry Ritz, the federal minister of Agriculture and
Agri-Food
Canada.

March 1, 2010 – Partners in the Ontario Agriculture
Sustainability Coalition find themselves up against a brick wall when they turn
for action to Gerry Ritz, the federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada.

Ontario farmers are rapidly losing
equity and their farm businesses because today’s risk management programs do
not work.

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When we talk to Minister Ritz, he
says 80 per cent of farmers think the federal AgriStability program is working
for them. Yet, 80 per cent of Ontario farmers tell the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) the program is failing
them and is in desperate need of major adjustments.

 betty_jean_crew
 

Bette Jean Crews

Minister Ritz, speaking at the
recent annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture says
technology, science, research and innovation will save agriculture. In the
long-term, he may be right, but right now, how do our farmers invest in
innovation with record debt levels and lost equity.

The situation is bleak on Ontario
farms and the Minister has to understand that there will be serious and
irreparable damage to Ontario’s rural economy as a result. Our OASC
coalition has developed the solutions to stabilize and sustain our farm businesses
so that we can capitalize on technology and innovation in a more secure future.

The minister recently claimed that
farmers are a resilient group, and will continue to plant and to birth calves
and so on. That was the case but it is no longer true. Ontario farm
businesses have lost equity and are in debt. There is no more resiliency
left.  The Minister has to get in touch with the new reality and listen to
the solutions that will turn this dire situation around.

Farm leaders within the OASC group
predict that thousands of Ontario farmers will exit agriculture each year.
There will be a major loss of jobs in the agri-food sector as agricultural
production disappears because of the failure of government to properly invest
in agriculture.

Ontario’s new minister of
agriculture, food and rural affairs, the Honourable Carol Mitchell, understands
this situation and supports the proposals we have brought forward. But the risk
management programs operate on a 60/40 federal–provincial split so we need our
federal government to step up to the plate with a real commitment to farming in
this country.

A recent news release from OFA and
its OASC partners expressed disappointment at the failure of agriculture
ministers from Ottawa, the provinces and the territories to "understand and
appreciate" the problems currently facing farmers.

In that release, OFA stated: "(Ministers)
need to realize that our local food supply is in jeopardy along with thousands
of farming and processing jobs."

Ontario’s minister gets
it. Why can’t Minister Ritz?

When I recently asked point blank
if he would support the proposals to reform AgriStability to make it
predictable and bankable and to support the Ontario Business Risk Management
Plan the Minister simply said: “No.”

That is unacceptable.

All Ontario farmers need to make
sure his colleagues in government understand that is unacceptable. Ontario farm
families need to raise their voices to tell our federal politicians that a
serious investment in Ontario agriculture is needed and warranted. Call
your Member of Parliament and make sure they make farming and food production a
priority.

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

 


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