The organization’s virtual lobby day focused on key issues like farmland preservation and labour
By Jackie Clark
Last week the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) participated in a virtual lobby day, bringing the issues crucial to their membership to Queen’s Park while still respecting COVID-19 restrictions.
The format worked well, Peggy Brekveld, OFA president, told Farms.com.
“The politicians and our staff were well coordinated and had some really good conversations,” she said. The organization has lots of things to follow up on.”
Some of the top-priority topics “included farmland preservation, infrastructure such as broadband and natural gas, and conversations about what the world looks like past this pandemic,” she explained.
The OFA recently launched a Home Grown campaign calling attention to farmland loss, and urging agricultural stakeholders to sign a petition to the Ontario government to protect farmland from urban development.
“We’re hoping that agricultural impact assessments will be done, not just in the Greenbelt, but beyond,” Brekveld said. “We’re hoping that cities will consider building in and up and ensuring that as they make plans that they keep in mind that food production is necessary for us all, and preserving farmland is part of that long-term picture.”
Another key issue for agriculture in Ontario is labour. The provincial government announced $617,400 for the OFA Feeding Your Future initiative and $195,000 for Food and Beverage Ontario to address issues in the sector as part of a new labour strategy in a statement on May 10.
“Labour shortages have been an issue in agriculture for a long time. So, the solution isn’t going to happen overnight,” Brekveld said. The solution “includes the promotion of agriculture jobs at all levels, in the same way that trades were promoted by the Ministry of Labour.”
Another “part of the conversation is perhaps micro certification or endorsements on diplomas in -subjects such as computer sciences and environmental sciences. If you are studying almost any subject, there are applications in agriculture,” she explained.
“I also think part of the answer is going to be in automation,” she added. “That’s going to be part of the answer to long term labour needs as well.”
Additionally, “I think there will always be a need for some seasonal ag workers or temporary foreign workers. So, to continue to find processes that work for everyone, Canadians, and migrants,” Brekveld said.
Oleksii Liskonih\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo