Convention re-energizes OFA

Bette Jean Crews

Delegates to the 2009 annual meeting of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture discovered they can generate a lot of energy and enthusiasm even with a shorter convention.
Many delegates said they appreciated the single-day convention this year as they were anxious to return to their farms to complete a harvest that’s been difficult in many areas.
It was gratifying to see the return of OFA’s three presidents by acclamation. That tells us there’s a good degree of comfort and satisfaction with the leaders of Ontario’s largest general farm organization.
Now myself and vice-presidents, Don McCabe and Mark Wales, can get back to representing Ontario farmers on a number of levels, primarily at Queen’s Park but also in discussions with the province’s commodity organizations and at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, OFA’s door to the federal government.
It is important that OFA work in harmony with the commodities because our minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, Leona Dombrowsky, told convention delegates that government can work best with a strong, single message from farmers.
Dombrowsky, after meeting with the OFA and a delegation of five industry leaders recently, has agreed to dedicate resources to an industry/government committee that would work together on a risk management program for non-supply managed commodities.
The minister also had good news for convention delegates when she indicated the move to approve a fee increase for OFA was moving forward.
The vast majority of farmers who responded to the government’s invitation to comment on such a fee increase was positive.
Without adequate funding, the OFA is unable to do the research and lobbying necessary to keep our industry on the leading edge as Ontario agriculture faces increased competition nationally and around the world.
With adequate funding, OFA will be able to provide governments with information and analysis to meet the needs of the industry, and allow agriculture to fuel the economic growth the province desires.
I was able to report to convention delegates that Premier Dalton McGuinty shares agriculture’s leaders’ vision for the future role of agriculture in the province’s economic development.
In a recent meeting, he agreed to agriculture’s request to have the industry do the base work on an agricultural strategy for Ontario, and said the province would be there to get involved, at the appropriate time, with government input.
The convention also gave considerable debate to the concept of a national food strategy. That concept will be developed further with support from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and input from consumers.
We know all of this will take a lot of time and a lot of resources, but agriculture is not prepared to be shoved to short-term and ad hoc programming that is ineffective.
OFA members across the province have been given notice that we plan to be much more visible in the lives of provincial and federal government members, and their involvement will be important.
Their involvement also will be essential as we work to keep the consuming public and the media better informed of agriculture’s role in the economic health of the province and the country.
OFA directors met following the convention and elected Keith Currie of Simcoe County, Zone 3, to the executive position.
We thank Wendy Omvlee for her work in that position this past year.
The OFA feels energized coming out of this year’s convention–ready, willing, and able to make Ontario agriculture stronger.