By Drew Spoelstra, Executive Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
It’s no surprise to Canadian farmers that agriculture and agri-food topped the federal government’s list as a key sector for growth and exports in a recent economic report. The Path to Prosperity, created by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, recommends Canada double its food and agriculture exports to turn the industry into a global powerhouse.
This is the second report from the Council since fall 2016 that recommends a series of steps the federal government can take to grow Canada’s economy. The recent February 2017 report acknowledges the tremendous economic potential of the agriculture and the agri-food sector. Canada’s agricultural sector is larger and more diversified than ever, driven by innovations and technology that has seen our industry grow by leaps and bounds. Outlining three recommendations for economic growth in Canada, The Path to Prosperity suggested the federal government “unleash the growth potential of key sectors such as the agri-food sector.”
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau established the 14-member Advisory Council on Economic Growth in March 2016 to develop advice on concrete policy actions. The Council’s advice will help to inform the federal government’s future actions and policies.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) applauds this report, especially the encouragement and endorsement about the importance of growing the agriculture and agri-food sector. The Path to Prosperity report indicates that much of Canada’s economic potential is untapped. Policies creating excessive regulations and other barriers to growth such as skilled labour shortages and a lack of physical infrastructure, are limiting growth opportunities. OFA has been telling governments this for years – our agriculture and agri-food industry is poised for growth, but we need the right policies, fewer regulations, a solid labour force and sound infrastructure to transport our products to market.
OFA has maintained the need for a viable suite of federal and provincial policies. These include support for farmers to manage their businesses through the government funded Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Self-Directed Risk Management Program (SDRM) used by the horticulture industry. We need infrastructure investments now as under-funded municipalities are forced to cut back on the maintenance of roadways, bridges and drainage. Ontario farmers, rural residents and businesses need infrastructure to bring natural gas out to our communities. This lower cost energy source is essential to competing in the global marketplace where others have significantly lower energy costs.
It’s encouraging to see agriculture and agri-food identified as the potential global powerhouse we know it can be. Ask anyone in Canada’s agricultural sector and you’ll learn first-hand how much potential we have. The authors of this new Path to Prosperity report – the Advisory Council on Economic Growth – have set out a plan and recommendations for Canadian agriculture. We look forward to working with government and policy decision makers to meet the Council’s goal, to help create the conditions for strong and sustained long-term economic growth. Agriculture is ready.