Minister of Agriculture, Food speaks locally on need for rural support

April 23, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal is looking to expand support for rural Ontario, after two polarizing summers hit the farming industry hard.

Mr. Leal described Dufferin County as a rapidly growing region, particularly in Shelburne. “We got to make sure that we can protect that valuable farmland,” while Orange-ville is part of the centre in “agriculture excellence in Southwestern Ontario.”

He told the Citizen of the importance of a $500-million investment in broadband. “We do know that modern agriculture is predicated on access to connectivity, and this is a very important investment.”

Mr. Leal said the increase in the ministry’s budget for 2018-19 is “a clear direction” for agriculture food and processing.

Asked about the polarizing weather the past two years, he explained these extreme, volatile weather conditions caused five counties in Ontario in 2016 to have the driest summer on record in 100 years, and with the record precipitation in 2017, the province’s programs must be current, and meet the needs of the industry.

He commented on how the Ontario Agricorp, the agency that delivers risk management programs to the province’s agriculture industry, did “an exceptional job in the summer of 2016 … and in the summer of 2017 they had their field staff in the field immediately to ascertain crop damage, process clients, and got payments back to Ontario farmers very quickly.”

Mr. Leal described the agriculture industry as the largest economic driver in Ontario, with a GDP of $37 billion, with 800,000 people employed in the sector, along with the 50,000 family farms who do “an incredible job, both in the supply and manage sector, and the non supply and manage sector to make sure that Ontarians have the highest quality of food that they consume everyday.”

He said they need to make sure they protect their agriculture interests when dealing with the Canada European Trade Deal, and in particular, the NAFTA discussions.

Mr. Leal added that the province’s agriculture food products through Food Land Ontario are “second to none” in its reputation around the world, and they need to take advantage of that.

He said he frequently goes to his local farmers market in Peterborough, and when it comes to food, “the first choice is to buy something that’s local and growing.”

With the world’s population estimated to increase to 9 billion by 2050, Mr. Leal said Canada is one of the countries that can meet that challenge, particularly Ontario, “with a very diverse agriculture base.” He added they would continue to seek markets around the world, as prospects for agriculture jobs are increasing.

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