OFA advocates for farmers and agricultural producers at 2023 AMO conference

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is celebrating the work being done in connection with industry stakeholders and municipalities to help support agricultural producers in the province.

In the OFA’s weekly Viewpoint newsletter released on September 5, 2023, OFA Vice President Crispin Colvin recounted his attendance at the 2023 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) annual general meeting held in London, Ontario from August 21 to 23, noting that the event in a significant public policy conference for the province. The AMO meeting and conference also allows for organizations and municipalities to advocate for their interests, in the case of the OFA allowing them to advocate on behalf on agricultural producers as well as to promote collective economic growth.

“OFA advocates on behalf of farmers on a wide range of issues, from rural health care and energy policy to land use, economic development and more,” Colvin wrote.

“Building relationships with related sectors can help deepen our understanding of those issues and lets us do a better job at advocating for the agriculture industry and rural communities.”

Colvin noted that many delegates from Ontario municipalities to AMO had come from larger urban communities who would not have as many direct connections to agricultural producers as those from smaller, rural locations, and would therefore be unaware of many of the aforementioned challenges facing producers.

“They’re also often surprised at the level of farmland loss in Ontario – an average of 319 acres a day according to the latest census data – and interested in knowing more about how critical it is to all of our futures that we maintain our ability to produce our own food, fuel, fibre and flowers as much as possible,” Colvin wrote.

To that end, Colvin mentioned that he had the opportunity to meet with delegates at the conference, on behalf of the OFA, on a number of different challenging issues facing agriculture producers in Ontario, including improving rural infrastructure and services, planning for housing affordability and long-term land use, and strengthening economic development and community health.

Regarding rural infrastructure and services, Colvin noted that because the province’s rural economy relies on roads, bridges and drainage to ensure supply and distribution lines are working efficiently, the OFA has positioned itself to be a key partner working with government and municipalities in identifying ways to prioritize, build and maintain critical infrastructure.

“Investments into transportation infrastructure, access to affordable energy, broadband and increased social services — including schools, healthcare and community centres — will keep businesses in rural communities as well as encourage newcomers to establish themselves.” Colvin wrote.

“OFA has partnered with six rural municipalities on Cost of Community Services studies to help identify costs and benefits of various land use types and support those municipalities in developing growth strategies that can provide a high quality of life for residents while also protecting natural resources.”

The OFA is supporting the provincial government’s plan to combat the housing supply shortage and high home prices over the next 10 years by building more homes, saying that the organization’s focus is to encourage an approach that balances increased housing and economic growth with ensuring that agricultural and environmental lands are protected.

“Solutions include intensification of residential development within the existing urban footprint in the context of complete and liveable communities and supporting the distribution of economic development province wide,” Colvin wrote in his release.

Finally, the Colvin noted that the OFA sees “tremendous value” in developing and encouraging policies that enable direct farm marketing and agritourism to “improve urban and rural connections and provide healthy outdoor activities and access to local food for families.

“Last year, OFA conducted a local food and agritourism survey, where 38% of respondents noted that although they don’t currently offer agritourism experiences on their farms, they would consider doing so,” he shared.

“OFA partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario on the 2022 State of the Ontario Tourism Industry Report. The report provides several recommendations for all three levels of government, covering topics such as the economy, labour, infrastructure, and the future of (agri)tourism.”

The 2024 AMO annual general meeting and conference will take place in Ottawa from August 18 to 21, 2024.