The re-elected president of the OFA shares how he wants to collaborate with the provincial government to grow prosperity in the Ontario ag industry
By Jackie Clark
Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) delegates re-elected Keith Currie for a fourth term as president at the organization’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Nov. 18.
He hopes to continue the forward momentum the OFA has developed with the provincial government and focus on both short- and long-term solutions to further the prosperity of agriculture in Ontario.
At the AGM, “a lot of people were talking about furthering collaboration between farm organizations to make sure we’re a more unified voice,” Currie told Farms.com.
A unified message helps the industry to work effectively with government, as industry reps have over the last year.
“Before the June (provincial) election, we had launched the Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign,” Currie said. “It’s really starting to take traction.”
Premier Doug Ford and his ministers’ “priority for the first year or so was cutting red tape which is great. Red tape effects everybody. But they’re now actually starting to talk about the economic development piece that we’ve been pushing,” Currie said.
“I’m encouraged by the level of engagement that we’ve had with the provincial government. We’re starting to have a conversation about what some of those key strategic infrastructure investments would look like.”
Infrastructure investments of note include rural broadband to enhance connectivity, natural gas expansion, and improved maintenance of roads and bridges, Currie explained.
Enhanced infrastructure is necessary for agricultural businesses and may help entice more workers to rural areas, which is another OFA priority.
The OFA is “working hard on dealing with the big shortage in labour,” Currie said. The organization is looking at “the 7,000 or so new immigrants that Ontario sees each year and how we can (attract them) across the province, not just into our urban centres.
“Getting some of those new immigrants who in some cases have an agriculture connection or agriculture background (to rural areas) could really help service our agricultural industry,” he said.
Education on the type of labour needed in the ag industry is also part of the plan to fill needs. “A lot of people have a skill that they don’t necessarily associate with agriculture, but it does fit. There’s a lot of opportunity in that regard,” Currie added.
Currie and the team at OFA are working hard addressing immediate concerns like the CN rail strike, but they also have their sights set on longer-term goals, such as climate change mitigation.
“The reality is that climate change is here, its real and it’s not going away. The province is starting to talk in terms of climate change,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to push the environmental theme as something that the farm community can really help the province with. We’re looking to find ways that they can enable us to do even more. Our farm community has shown that they’re willing to do their part, but we can’t financially do it all on our own.”
Ontario Federation of Agriculture photo