Bees, energy and myths
There is no shortage of issues when it comes to farming.
Don McCabe, president of the 37,000-member Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), addresses some of the organization’s concern in his most recent report.
“Farmers consider regulations to be the number one issue affecting their businesses. The OFA has been pleased to work with several ministries on behalf of the Ontario agricultural sector on the Open for Business initiative, and looks forward to continued improvements in the regulatory process,” he writes
The agriculture and agri-food industry is the only sector continuing to hold stakeholder meetings through the Open for Business process. Provincial ministries are involved in the process.
The link between pesticide use and bee colony collapse continues to be a contentious topic.
The province’s solution is not workable, the federation contends.
The province is moving forward with a “pollinator health strategy,” which is designed to reduce neonicotinoids application by corn and soybean producers.
The OFA, recognizing the need for the plan, also encourages the government to focus on all factors that have been identified as possible contributors to bee health, not just the use of neonicotinoids.
The OFA has questions about the regulatory process that would be required for the government to reach the reductions in use of neonicotinoid seed treatment by Ontario farmers. “The current process outlined to reach these dramatically lower levels of use is not evidence-based and very inconsistent with the government’s own Open for Business consultation process,” argues Mr. McCabe. “In very practical terms, the OFA wonders how the government will effectively and efficiently monitor and regulate any new restrictions imposed on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatment. And more specifically, the suggestion that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) will be a new solution is not a workable option because of the way seed is treated, ordered and sold in Ontario.”
The OFA states: “Ontario can’t support viable, sustainable farm businesses in this type of regulatory environment.”
The OFA is committed to creating a healthy bioeconomy in Ontario using renewable resources and converting them into feed, fuel, bioenergy and other bio-based products. The goal is to attract and build bioprocessing plants in Ontario and develop additional energy generation through biodigestion.
The lobby group is pressing the province to increase provincial transfers to municipalities to ensure they don’t need to resort to excessive property taxes to raise the revenues needed for municipal services. The OFA will also be advocating for rural infrastructure investments. “We want to ensure that the range of services available in rural communities — roads and bridges plus public services that include access to health care, child and schools — are similar to those offered in urban areas,” says Mr. McCabe. Like everyone else, farmers are increasingly concerned about the rising costs of energy.
“OFA will be asking for program details on the recent investment in natural gas expansion in rural Ontario with $200 million in loans and $30 million in grants over two years. We’ll also be advocating for the Ontario government to develop a farm and industrial electricity rate , with a plan to reintroduce farm and industrial rates starting with the 2015 provincial budget.”
The federation “acknowledges that climate change is happening here, evidenced by more frequent extreme weather events and patterns,” says the president. “We’re working at the grassroots level for an approach to develop policies and programs to help our members mitigate and adapt to climate change. Ontario farmers must take action to address the causes and impacts of climate change.”
The OFA “believes that policies, programs and research initiatives must be developed with government and society to reduce the causes and to enable farmers to cope with the effects of climate change.”
More than two-thirds of OFA members believe Business Risk Management (BRM) programs do not meet their needs.
But that is a more positive response than the one received in 2010, when 88 per cent were dissatisfied.
Across Canada, organizations are trying to end many misconceptions about the industry. Here are some numbers to respond to the skewed image of farming.
-- 51 per cent of farms are adopting new innovative technologies and practices
-- 44 per cent of farms are planning to expand their operations (compared to 41% in 2011)
-- 21 per cent of farmers plan to hire new employees
-- 95 per cent of farmers are taking action to protect the environment
-- 83 per cent of farmers who are planning to transfer their business in the next three years will be passing the farm on to a family member.
SHARING: Solar panels have been cropping up on many area farms, providing another source of income for land owners.