By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Queen’s Park politicians should be ready to take note: Ontario’s largest farm lobby group, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), released its key issues for 2014 on Friday, which were outlined in its weekly commentary.
OFA has narrowed it down to three – promote greater access to natural gas throughout rural parts of the province, reduce red tape impacting family farms, and address some of the shortcomings of Ontario’s proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, as it relates to OFA elections.
The first priority that OFA identified is pushing for greater access to natural gas. The farm group says it plans to continue to ask the province to invest in infrastructure that can provide a more efficient energy option for farm families. OFA projects that natural gas could save farm businesses more than 800 million per year in energy costs. It hopes the province will commit to an infrastructure project investment in the spring budget.
A recurring complaint by farmers is that they are overregulated and left out of the decision making process when new policy is being created. The OFA’s second plank builds on its Open for Business lobby efforts from last year. It is asking for “upfront consultation” on regulation that’s being developed, and enforcement officers who “act consistently and with appropriate discretion”.
Its third area of focus is Ontario’s proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. OFA is concerned the changes that have been put forward would negatively impact OFA’s electoral representation. As it stands, the act would do away with geographic-based elections, which OFA argues “encroaches on the rights that OFA members value.” It’s possible that OFA members or any general farm group would no longer be able to elect based on geographic location. The OFA seeks to ensure that doesn’t happen.
The OFA concludes it commentary by saying that it is looking forward to working with MPPs and policymakers to ensure that family farms remain sustainable and profitable. MPPs return to the legislature in February. OFA represents its more than 37,000 members, making it the number one recognized general farm group in the province.