Ontario may have a relatively small acreage base for agriculture production, but the value and volume of food and food ingredients produced is second to none.
Supporting that valuable production and processing capacity is key for Grain Farmers of Ontario, and CEO Crosby Devitt says that that comes down to three main points for the immediate future: business risk management, tools for farmers to lower their carbon footprint, and fair and predictable trade.
In looking to what he hopes to see from the next government, Devitt says that a solution to business risk management programs is key.
“Having good programs for times of crisis or low income and for things that are out of farmers’ control [is key],” he says. As an example, he points to crop insurance in Ontario, where farmers understand the program and can use it to predictably manage risk.
There are challenges with AgriStability that GFO would like to see addressed, as well as finding a way that if a province wants to move ahead with helping their farmers (through federal programing), they should be able to go ahead and do that, he says.
The second key point, Devitt says, is developing a low carbon toolbox for farmers to help Canada achieve its emissions reduction targets. Where Devitt’s organization sees a glaring issue is the carbon tax on fuel used for grain drying, a direct means of managing for volatile weather. GFO would like to see tools and opportunities made available for farmers to manage their land with carbon reduction in mind, including reducing emissions from fertilizer applications.
The last point — fair and predictable trade — ties in to the carbon economy discussion, too, as Ontario is a major ethanol producer and soybean producer, too. Devitt says GFO would like to see more domestic processing of all crops, but especially those that could fit in to a Clean Fuel or biofuel mandate.
What’s more, it’s important that Canada design policy that doesn’t penalize its own producers only to import crop from other countries whose farmers do not face the same restrictions or red tape.
The Clean Fuel Standard should provide ongoing opportunities to have ethanol part of that fuel mix and not impose on-farm restrictions on how farmers manage their land, Devitt says.