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What prorogation means for Ontario farmers

Listowel Banner / Minto Express editorial

On Oct. 15, the Ontario legislature was prorogued until further notice. Several bills that had reached various points in the legislative agenda (from first reading through to committee) are now abandoned. And while government operations – including regulation and spending – continue, all legislative reform initiatives will have to wait out a leadership race, and the resumption of the legislature.

During this period of flux, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) will shift its work in the coming months to regroup with grassroots members to review and re-evaluate our positions on several issues. We will use this opportunity to take our messages to elected officials to reinforce the value of the farm sector, the importance of good policy in many areas that affect farm businesses, and to influence future party platforms.

Although consultations on the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) Act have ended, the OFA will continue to remind elected officials that Ontario farmers take animal husbandry practices very seriously, and in most cases we meet or exceed the high standards and codes of practice in place for our animals. The OSPCA Act must be changed to make animal care inspection and enforcement accountable, and establish clear rules respecting Ontario farm animals and farmers.

We will continue working with government to reinforce the importance of a healthy rural economy. For the OFA, that means continuing to push for a partnership program between Ontario’s government and Ontario’s world-class horseracing industry.

It also means the development of a comprehensive provincial food strategy that incorporates local food initiatives, food and farming education, local food infrastructure and community food access.

Environmental initiatives continue to be of high priority for the OFA. And although the Great Lakes Act has died on the legislative table, the OFA recognizes the importance of being proactive on water and agriculture issues. As such, we are striking a task team to take an in-depth look at water issues from an agricultural perspective, and we hope to see the development of a strong position that can help guide government in future legislation. We will also continue to work with the government on Species at Risk issues, including monitoring ongoing work in that area.

Finally, although work done on the Aggregates Resource Act has come to an end, the OFA still has an important role to play in influencing the Provincial Policy Statement (which remains active in the coming months). The OFA will continue to emphasize that farmland and soil is a superior resource, and its preservation must be the highest priority, despite the growing need for gravel and other aggregate extractions required for infrastructure projects across the province.

Regardless of what the various bills are called when and if they are tabled under a new government, the main issues affecting Ontario farm families will not be forgotten. Respect for the environment including farmland and soils, fair treatment of farmers and farm businesses, and the development of partnerships that help rural Ontario thrive will always be priorities for the OFA. The Ontario legislators may not be sitting, but Ontario farm families still have the opportunity to make sure elected officials understand our messages, and are equipped with the information required to craft sound legislation moving forward.

- Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Special to The Listowel  Banner

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