By Mark Kunkel, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
As budgets go, the recent federal budget was seen as generally positive for the agri-food sector. We were identified as one of six key priority areas with the greatest potential to drive economic growth. Direct reference was made in the budget to the Report by the Advisory Council on Economic Growth (known as the Barton Report) – a document that identifies agri-food’s potential and calls for investments in agri-food to boost exports by 50% to bring the annual level to $75 million.
There may not be a lot of new money in the budget, but an overall innovation theme is consistent with the capacity and potential of the agri-food sector.
Ten areas were specifically identified in the budget that relate to the agriculture and agri-food sector. There is $950 million over five years for six super clusters, including agriculture that’s been identified as a highlight innovative industry. Innovation Canada will lead the creation of Canada’s economic growth strategies that include agri-food.
A new $1.26 billion, five-year innovation fund focused on the aerospace, defence and automotive industries will now include agri-food. The establishment of a Chief Science Advisor will help build trust in our science-based industry. To advance agricultural science specifically, $70 million will be invested over five years to support more discovery and innovation, including work on climate change, and soil and water conservation.
The budget also included a repeat of the $500 million investment in broadband internet and $2 billion in rural and northern infrastructure – investments that are desperately needed to support further growth and innovation in the agri-food industry and our rural communities across Canada.
OFA applauds the recognition of our industry’s potential in the 2017 federal budget. We will keep the spotlight on the Barton Report and include it in our work to build a national food policy while we continue to push for action on areas that serve and support our sector.