Farms Forever Discussion Paper
The Ontario government recognizes that our agri-food sector is the foundation of our province - and it seems certain to play a critical role in our future.
In the Premier's mandate letter to Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the ministry was instructed to move forward with Farms Forever. The initiative will help inform future policy development to help support a strong and innovative agri-food sector. This support includes investing in agricultural research and programs to support innovation in the sector.
This discussion paper sets out the basis for a broad engagement on Farms Forever.
The four policy objectives of Farms Forever are the following:
Each section of the discussion paper provides an overview of one policy objective and highlights accomplishments to-date under each one. There are brief descriptions of various programs and initiatives, which illustrate how the Ontario government and agri-food stakeholders have been working to help the sector thrive and prosper.
We know there is more work to do. That's why this discussion paper also provides suggestions for moving forward toward an even stronger, more vibrant sector and how the Ontario government's "Farms Forever" can, with the help of input from sector stakeholders, support the future of farming and agri-food production in Ontario.
Table of Contents
Agriculture is one of the building blocks of our province - and it seems certain to play a critical role in our future. The agri-food industry sustains us, provides jobs and opportunities for Ontarians, and links rural communities to urban centres. The sector is a major contributor to Ontario's economy - and, through the effort of producers, processors, distributors, and others along the value chain, including government, the sector's impact continues to grow.
From a global perspective, the agri-food sector is more important than ever. It is widely believed that the world's population will grow to more than nine billion people in 2050, and will require a rapidly-increasing, safe and healthy food supply. The latest projections from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in their High Level Expert Forum - How to Feed the World in 2050 report show that feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 would require raising overall food production by some 70 per cent between 2005/07 and 2050.
At home, Ontario's agri-food sector remains one the most diversified in the world, with 52,000 farms across the province producing almost 200 commodities. From an economic perspective, the agri-food sector is one of the province's largest, contributing $36.4 billion to the Ontario's gross domestic product (GDP). The sector touches every corner of this province and provides jobs to a diverse array of Ontarians.
Opportunities for Growth
The agri-food sector provides stability to the provincial economy because it has shown consistent growth and has been less affected by negative economic cycles compared to other sectors. Growth in agriculture is being fueled by increasing domestic and international demand, a reflection of global population growth and the middle class's purchasing power.
In fact, the agri-food sector was highlighted in the Federal government's Advisory Council on Economic Growth report (February 2017) as one of Canada's high-potential sectors that government should collaborate with to help leverage their economic prospects and strengths relative to global opportunities.
Ontario is in step with this direction. In 2013, Premier Wynne issued the Agri-Food Growth Challenge to the industry to double its growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs by the year 2020. Since issuing the Challenge, more than 42,000 jobs have been created and $2.2 billion has been added to the economy.
The reasons for the success of Ontario's agri-food sector can be squarely placed on the people who work in the sector; on having some of the most productive land, soil, climate and water in Canada; and the research, technology and innovation that have been driving the sector forward.
There are many other partners across the province playing key roles. Municipalities and community-based groups, along with not-for-profit organizations, have also done important work to help the province's agri-food sector thrive and grow.
Agri-food research and innovation also contribute to the strength of the sector. Advances in a wide range of subject areas - as diverse as crop science, community economic development and environmental protection - have driven the province forward as a producer of food and agricultural goods. In particular, Ontario colleges and universities continue to undertake research that informs and supports decisions affecting agri-food's present reality and future growth. In addition, these colleges and universities are training the future labour force that the sector will need to continue to grow.
The Government of Ontario is also a key partner in the success of the agri-food sector. Ontario understands that the sector needs a stable and positive business climate; one where government is supporting growth and investment. This helps to build resilience into the system so that our farmers and food processors can grow into the future. The government provides many tools to help the province's farmers and other agri-food stakeholders succeed. These include provincial investments in infrastructure, research, a strong regulatory regime, as well as business risk management programs, to name but a few.
This discussion paper summarizes the ways in which agri-food sector partners support and strengthen the province's agri-food sector. It also provides suggestions for moving forward toward an even stronger, more vibrant sector. Specifically, the paper looks at how the Ontario government's "Farms Forever" can, with the help of input from sector stakeholders, support farming and agri-food production in Ontario into the future.
The Ontario government has continually recognized the significance of the province's agriculture and agri-food sector. In the Premier's mandate letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, the ministry was instructed to move forward with Farms Forever to help support a strong and innovative agri-food sector. This support includes investing in agricultural research and programs to support innovation in the sector.
This paper sets out the basis for a broad discussion on Farms Forever. The four policy objectives of Farms Forever are the following:
Each section of this paper provides an overview of one policy objective and highlights accomplishments to-date under each one. There are brief descriptions of various programs and initiatives, which illustrate how the Ontario government and agri-food stakeholders have been working to help the sector thrive and prosper. But, we know there is more to do.
The Importance of Input
Feedback from stakeholders is a vital part of Farms Forever. Given the size and importance of the agri-food sector in Ontario, it is crucial to hear stakeholders' views on policies and programs that support the sector and help it to flourish. At the same time, it is vital that stakeholders and government work together to accomplish the Farms Forever objectives.
This discussion paper contains information about the work that has been and continues to be done to strengthen the province's agri-food sector. The government knows there is a wide range of stakeholders, who possess vast expertise and knowledge, to inform Farms Forever. This information is intended to facilitate an open discussion about the broad aim of strengthening the province's agri-food sector for many generations to come.
At the end of each section, there are questions specifically related to that section's policy objective. Please consider these questions as guidelines for providing feedback on Farms Forever.
The government has undertaken other consultation processes to-date that will also help feed into the Farms Forever objectives, such as the Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review; the Northern Ontario Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing Sector Strategy; and the Next Policy Framework. The feedback obtained through this paper will build on information collected from those engagements.
For more information, visit our website at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/policy/farmsforever.htm. Comments on any aspect of this paper can be provided via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Attention: Karla Uliana, 2nd Floor, 1 Stone Road West, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 4Y2
Section 3: Preserving the Productive Capacity of Agricultural Land Close to Major Urban Centres (Policy Objective 1)
Ontario understands the need to balance the ability to develop land to accommodate our growing population with other pressing requirements, such as land to grow food and other agricultural products. Farmland is a limited resource with approximately five per cent of the province used for agriculture (OMAFRA, 2015).
The province has been developing rapidly and the historic rate of farmland loss across Ontario is not sustainable. We know that more can be done to manage growth and protect the remaining farmland to ensure the resource is sustained over the long term.
We know protection of the agricultural land base must be done in concert with supporting the long-term viability of the agri-food sector. This is increasingly important in light of other global and local issues such as economic volatility, challenges to soil health, water scarcity, poverty, climate change and food insecurity. All of these factors combine to present a scenario which needs to be addressed by a co-ordinated effort between government and stakeholders to ensure that farmland is protected and farms remain viable for future generations.
Land Use Planning in Ontario
Ontario's land use planning system has policy requirements to protect farmland. The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is a province-wide land use planning document that was updated in 2014. Amongst other things, the PPS aims to protect prime agricultural areas over the long term and support farm viability. In 2014, these aims were enhanced with policies that provide opportunities for the growth of local food, and promote the sustainability of agri-food businesses - for example, by permitting value-added uses on farms.
One of the key ways that the PPS and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (see below) protect agricultural land is by directing that a significant portion of population and employment growth be accommodated through intensification. In short, intensification is the practice of directing growth and development to the already-built-up areas of a community, rather than expanding onto undeveloped areas.
Coordinated Plan Review
Along with the PPS, the province has provincial land use plans that focus on specific geographic regions of Ontario. For example, within the fast-growing Greater Golden Horseshoe(GGH), there are four provincial plans that work together to manage growth, build complete communities, curb sprawl, and protect the natural environment. In addition to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006, these include: the Greenbelt Plan, 2005; the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, 2002; and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, 2005.
A co-ordinated review of these four land use plans began in 2015 including consultation with interested parties. OMAFRA is working closely with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and other ministries to address the feedback received during the review. Final plan amendments are expected in early 2017. For more information on Ontario's land use planning framework visit: www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page186.aspx and www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/index.html.
As part of the coordinated plan review, an external Advisory Panel provided recommendations to the province in its report Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe: 2015 - 2041 (December 2015). The report included recommendations to strengthen agricultural land use planning in the GGH, by, for example:
The Advisory Panel report also included recommendations that go beyond land use planning such as recommendations that promote a healthy agricultural economy, recognizing local food, and integrating agricultural interests along with land use planning decision-making (source: www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=11110). To help fulfill the Advisory Panel's recommendations, OMAFRA, in collaboration with municipal, agricultural, and other stakeholders, is developing mapping and implementation procedures for the GGH agricultural system. These will be available for public consultation in spring and summer 2017.
The specific desired outcomes of this agricultural system approach are:
The purpose of moving to an agricultural system in the GGH is to improve farmland protection while helping to create the conditions under which the agri-food sector can prosper. Emphasizing an agricultural system approach highlights the importance of the agri-food sector to regional and provincial economies, which supports the Advisory Panel's recommendations. This involves supporting agri-food assets along the value chain, and the services the sector needs to thrive. By working together, municipalities, economic developers, planners, local food activists, farmers and agri-food businesses can help the GGH reinforce and advance its position as one of North America's most significant agri-food clusters.
Soil Health and Conservation Strategy
Government and farmers are also working together to improve the sustainable management of Ontario's agricultural soils, and to protect the long-term productivity of this land. Healthy agricultural soil is a living and dynamic ecosystem, and wise management can ensure it is fertile and full of the living organisms that are essential to growing food and other agricultural products, now and for future generations.
OMAFRA is leading the development of an Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy, with the help of Ontario's farm organizations, soil experts, researchers, and other stakeholders.
This strategy is being developed in three stages, which began with public consultation on a discussion document called Sustaining Ontario's Agricultural Soils: Towards a Shared Vision in the fall of 2016 (available on OMAFRA's website at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/soilhealth.htm).
The discussion document provided background to key issues, and proposed a draft vision, goals and objectives for the strategy. Generally, those who commented on the paper supported the vision, goals and objectives and the overall direction of the initiative. Issues frequently raised in the feedback included the link between soil health and farm ownership and farmland protection, as well as economic considerations related to soil health. OMAFRA and its collaborators are considering all comments in developing a draft strategy, planned for release in 2017.
Concurrently, OMAFRA is building on existing soil health programs and initiatives by updating soils mapping and related information to support improved decision-making, including the protection of our agricultural land base through the province's land use planning system. OMAFRA is also developing initiatives to deliver on greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, as outlined in Ontario's Climate Change Action Plan, signalling the government's intent to fund up to $30 million to implement actions to reduce net soil GHGs under the soil strategy.
Following public consultation on the draft strategy, a final strategy will be developed to guide soil health action by OMAFRA and its soil health partners in the coming years.
Great Lakes Agriculture Stewardship Initiative (GLASI)
The various parts of the Great Lakes Agriculture Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) work together to support the stewardship of soil and water resources in the Lake Erie basin and southeast shores of Lake Huron.
GLASI's Farmland Health Check-Up helps producers to identify key areas of risk on their farm fields and to select best practices to reduce those risks, while the Farmland Health Incentive Program provides cost-share funding to support implementation of those practices. GLASI's various components also support producers' efforts to reduce risks of potential impacts from their farm operations on the environment. Outcomes of the program include:
GLASI will continue to offer producers access to risk assessment tools, educational opportunities and cost-share funding to benefit their farm businesses productivity, profitability and the environment until March 2018.
Ensuring that Ontario's farmland is protected for future generations is an important aspect of the province's growth and development. As detailed above, Ontario has numerous policies and initiatives in place to further guarantee this land-protection strategy. It is vital, however, that government and stakeholders continue to work together on a sustainable, robust approach.
When considering Policy Objective 1, it is useful to keep these questions in mind:
The quality and safety of Ontario food is amongst the highest in the world. Our farmers harvest an impressive abundance from our fields, farms, orchards and vineyards. Food processors transform that bounty across the value chain into the highest-quality products for consumers. Buying local food supports our farmers, our economy and the environment.
Since 2003, Ontario has been a strong supporter of local food. This support has come in the form of investments of over $180 million towards initiatives and projects that help promote and celebrate the good things that are grown, harvested and made in this province. Ontario's goal is to increase the consumption of local food, while supporting good agri-food jobs that will make local food an even greater contributor to Ontario's economic success. OMAFRA has made significant strides in developing a Local Food Strategy and implementing key elements of the Local Food Act, 2013.
At the same time, however, the province recognizes opportunities exist to continue to raise awareness and to improve the return on our investments. For example, many people in the province may not know about which regions grow specialty crops, or how the connection between agriculture and food can impact their community or those across the province. As well, there is often a lack of awareness about how municipalities and agri-food stakeholders can work to create and support the elements of a strong agri-food sector, such as food hubs, co-ops, or cold storage facilities.
Ontario's Local Food Strategy
To realize the great potential for agri-food in Ontario, which has been strengthened by the Local Food Act, 2013, the province has developed a multi-pronged local food strategy. Through a number of ongoing activities the government is aiming to enhance:
Ontario's Local Food Act
The Local Food Act, 2013, is the core of the province's Local Food Strategy (see below). The Act is designed to help:
Successes and highlights based on initiatives mandated by the Act include:
Since 1977, Foodland Ontario has been the province's key domestic support program, partnering with the agri-food sector to promote and market Ontario food. Consumer recognition of the Foodland Ontario logo is more than 90 per cent, and more than 80 per cent of Ontario's principal grocery shoppers report their intent to purchase local foods.
Foodland Ontario has over 1,200 logo agreements that help growers and processors to co-brand with the logo to help identify their products as being from Ontario in the domestic marketplace. For example, a single logo agreement, such as Neilson's one-litre milk cartons, can mean hundreds of thousands of consumer impressions on a monthly basis. Foodland Ontario also co-brands with major retailers, distributors and restaurants. For example:
Local Food Report
In June 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs released its second annual Local Food Report.
Highlights from the report included:
Through these investments, the provincial government has been able to partner with local food providers to expand opportunities for both producers and consumers in Ontario.
The full report is available here: www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/local_food_rpt16.htm.
Other initiatives that the government has supported to promote local food and to grow local food economies are:
Fresh from the Farm
Launched in 2013, Fresh from the Farm brings fresh and local Ontario vegetables and fruit to participating elementary and secondary schools across the province. It is a collaboration between Dietitians of Canada, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, the Ontario Ministry of Education, and OMAFRA.
In 2016, the fourth year of the Fresh from the Farm program, 371 schools submitted orders generating over $950,000 in total local food sales, and representing almost 900,000 pounds (403,697 kg) of Ontario fruits and vegetables. More than $351,000 was returned to Ontario schools, and over $500,000 returned to Ontario growers.
Support for Farmers' Markets Ontario
In 2015, Farmers' Markets Ontario (FMO) saw 11 new member markets open and a 242-day increase in farmers' market shopping days in Ontario. In total, 175 farmers' markets are now registered with FMO, which means more opportunities to expand the amount of local food products sold at farmers' markets.
One of these products is Ontario wine. In May 2014, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) began administering a two-year pilot project to permit the sale of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine at farmers' markets in Ontario. In May, 2016, the government approved the continuation of the program. At the same time, AGCO authorized manufacturers of fruit wine (including cider made from 100 per cent Ontario apples) to be permitted to sell their products at Ontario farmers' markets along with VQA wine.
As well, in 2015, the farmers' markets at select ONroute service centres alongside provincial highways attracted 198,000 visitors.
Broader Public Sector and Ontario Public Service Food Procurement
In Ontario, the group of public organizations known as the "broader public sector" spends an estimated $745 million per year on food, in such areas as municipalities, hospitals, long-term care homes, schools, colleges and universities. Because this sector is so large, boosting local food purchases in these areas is a significant market opportunity.
From 2010 to 2015, Ontario made $13 million available to the Greenbelt Fund to increase purchases of Ontario foods by the broader public sector. This included allocating $8.6 million towards 111 projects that increased local food sales by $110 million. For every dollar invested from these grants, it is estimated that local food sales increased by $13.
Building on this success, Ontario has allocated another $6 million to the Greenbelt Fund to continue to deliver programming, such as the Local Food Investment Fund, which supports local food literacy, local food access, and broader public sector local food procurement, from 2015 to 2018. To date, $3 million has been provided to 56 projects through the Local Food Investment Fund.
As well as encouraging the broader public sector to buy more Ontario food, the province is using its own purchasing power to support sustainable local food systems. For example, the government has introduced a directive that encourages ministries and agencies to consider procuring local food for any purchases under $25,000.
Food Safety and Traceability
In Ontario, food safety is a shared responsibility across all levels of government. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments all have distinct but interconnecting roles. Other stakeholders such as food processors have important roles to play as well. Ontario's world-class food safety system is anchored in a strong legislative and regulatory framework established through a number of statues, administered through OMAFRA, including the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001, the Milk Act, and the Fish Inspection Act.
This legislative framework is supported by activities that promote broad food safety measures including research, education and outreach to primary producers and processors. There is a need for regulations to be reviewed regularly and potentially changed, to minimize risks to both public health and the economy because of:
OMAFRA's food safety initiatives include:
OMAFRA also works with third parties to support its regulatory programs. For example, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) administers the raw milk quality program for cow milk under the Milk Act, with OMAFRA responsible for the monitoring and auditing of the DFO's administration of the program. This arrangement is established through legislation and a comprehensive administrative agreement.
Food safety and traceability are inter-related requirements in the protection and growth of Ontario's agri-food system. The ability to follow products through all stages of the agri-food chain, from production to retail, is crucial for protecting public health, ensuring food integrity, expanding market access and promoting public trust. Traceability supports effective recall of contaminated food products from the marketplace and assists in identifying contamination sources. Not all food safety and traceability requirements are legislated. Food safety program implementation and the ability to trace a product throughout the supply chain are becoming standard requirements for agri-food businesses in both domestic and global markets. Without effective food safety programs and traceability systems, producers and processors may be shut out of lucrative new markets or lose their existing markets to businesses that can demonstrate such assurances.
In 2006, the federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture agreed to phase in the National Agriculture and Food Traceability System. Subsequently, in 2009, ministers agreed to move forward with making this system mandatory, and development is currently underway for the livestock sector. The requirements for the system are split between the federal and provincial governments and industry:
OMAFRA maintains the Provincial Premises Registry through a third-party service provider, which allows registrants to voluntarily obtain premises identification numbers for each of their agri-food premises. The information collected is used by OMAFRA under the Animal Health Act, 2009, to quickly and accurately identify agri-food premises and contact information for each to aid in emergency response. The program also ensures OMAFRA is able to meet its commitments to the National Agriculture and Food Traceability System.
OMAFRA provides food safety and traceability outreach and education to producers and processors, in collaboration with industry organizations and delivery partners, including information about food safety and traceability fundamentals, risk management practices and program options. Outreach and education has been provided in the form of information sessions, networking events, workshops, webinars, tailored advice, tools and templates.
The province has also instituted the Foodland Ontario Retailer Awards Program. This is the produce industry's premier competition recognizing excellence in display, promotion of Ontario foods and support of Foodland Ontario.
Each year, approximately 1,250 stores across the province vie for Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards. The prestigious Foodland Ontario Award of Excellence may also be awarded to up to four of the top Ontario retailers in recognition of consistent merchandising achievement over two consecutive years.
Full details on the many retail award winners are available at: news.ontario.ca/omafra/en/2016/04/2016-foodland-ontario-retailer-awards.html
Ontario Grape and Wine/Beverage Alcohol Strategies
Following the historic introduction of beer and cider in grocery stores in December 2015, the Ontario government has helped to increase choice and convenience for consumers, while supporting fruit wine and cider producers, by continuing to make Ontario wines available in grocery stores in October, 2016. Wines, including world-class VQA brands and Ontario fruit wines, will be available in up to 300 independent and large grocery stores, and Ontario ciders will be available at up to 450 grocery stores.
The Ontario government also introduced the sale of 100 per cent Ontario fruit wines and cider at farmers' markets, benefiting the province's 19 cider producers, and over 40 wineries that produce fruit wines.
The LCBO also launched the first of 25 Craft Beer Zones in its stores in September 2015, enhancing market exposure for Ontario's smaller breweries. Consumers are snapping it up, with craft beer representing the LCBO's fastest growing beer category, with sales up 36 per cent.
Stakeholders and government must continue to work together to ensure that Ontario food continues to be of the highest quality and safety. As detailed above, Ontario has made major investments to further strengthen the agri-food sector, including support for local food in the province and setting the stage for ongoing advances in this area.
Please consider these questions on how we can continue to move Ontario's local food production forward:
The Ontario government's top priority is to grow the economy and create jobs. As an important part of this strategy, Ontario's agri-food sector must sustain its long-term role as one of the province's leading drivers of economic growth and employment. Ontario is supporting stakeholders with this by being a national leader in providing business risk management (BRM) tools and support to producers, which encourages confident investments that support growth in the sector.
In 2013, as evidence of the government's commitment to this growth, the Premier issued the Agri-Food Growth Challenge with ambitious targets for the sector: to double its growth rate, and create 120,000 new jobs by the year 2020. A bold challenge, but one that Ontario is well on its way to achieving. More than 42,000 jobs have been created and $2.2 billion has been added to the economy.
Ontario is also pursuing export growth opportunities to help agri-food businesses to deliver on the provincial strategy of growing the economy and creating jobs. OMAFRA is supporting innovation through research funds and technology transfer services, and collaborating with sector organizations and researchers to deliver educational programs and materials. Ontario is exploring new opportunities for growing agriculture, aquaculture, and food processing in the north of the province. At the same time, the province's agri-food sector must continue to diversify and bring new products to market, to grow and remain competitive in a world market.
Growing Forward 2
Growing Forward 2 (GF2) is a federal/provincial/territorial framework, launched in 2013, that provides an effective suite of business risk management (BRM) programs and encourages innovation, competitiveness and market development in the agri-food and agri products sector. Over the five-year term of GF2 (2013-2018), it is anticipated that Ontario will leverage $273 million in federal funds, with the province matching these funds with $182 million for strategic initiatives. A further $660 million is estimated for federal BRM program funding, with a provincial cost share of $440M. In all, the projected total for GF2 in Ontario is more than $1.5 billion.
Through BRM programming under GF2, OMAFRA helps Ontario's agricultural producers manage risks beyond their control, including weather and market volatility. Agricorp, a Crown agency of the government, delivers most of Ontario's BRM programs, notably the AgriStability and AgriInsurance (production insurance) programs. The AgriInvest program is delivered directly by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.
The province bolstered its BRM programs when, in May 2015, the Agriculture Insurance Act, 2015 was passed. The Act allows the province to offer production insurance plans for agricultural products beyond crops and perennial plants. For example, a Bee Mortality Production Insurance Plan was launched in September 2015. The ministry is working with other sub-sectors to explore opportunities to offer production insurance for their commodities as well.
In addition to federal/provincial/territorial GF2 BRM programs, Ontario provides the Ontario Risk Management Program (RMP) for grain and oilseeds, cattle, hogs, sheep and veal and a Self- Directed Risk Management (SDRM) program for the edible horticulture sector to assist producers in managing market risks.
Other, smaller programs funded by the province include the Vintners Quality Assurance Program, and the Marketing Vineyard Improvement Program.
Growing Forward 2 - Other Supports
In addition to Business Risk Management Programs, GF2 offers resources, tools and cost-share funding assistance to eligible producers, processors, organizations and collaborations to grow their profits, expand markets and manage shared risks.
The funding provided through GF2 cost-share funding assistance has supported over 5,400 projects committing $127 million to eligible producers, processors, organizations and collaborations. Ontario's GF2 projects address key industry issues such as research and innovation, assurance systems, environment and climate change adaptation, market development, animal and plant health, and business leadership development.
A sample of successful projects within the GF2 umbrella includes:
The last year for funding under the GF2 Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agreement is 2017-18. Ontario is engaged in negotiating the Next Policy Framework (NPF) with the federal government and the other provinces and territories, and so stakeholders have an opportunity to influence its future direction through the NPF consultation process, as well as through other consultations.
Agri-Food Research, Education and Laboratory Services
OMAFRA invests over $90 million annually in agri-food research and innovation, education and laboratory services to support growth in the agricultural sector. Through its partnership agreement with the University of Guelph (U of G) the ministry supports research programs; veterinary clinical education; research station infrastructure; laboratory services in animal health and food; and Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) and Knowledge Translation and Transfer (KTT) programs. This long-term investment provides access to specialized expertise and facilities to address government, ministry, and industry priorities.
OMAFRA and the U of G are currently working on a new agreement that will build on results achieved to date, sustain an effective research and knowledge transfer system and advance our mutual goals and outcomes for Ontario's rural communities and agri-food system.
OMAFRA also invests in other research programs (e.g. the New Directions and Food Safety Research Programs) which are open to public and private research organizations. These programs provide targeted funding to address high-priority research needs and emerging issues, and draw from a wide-range of institutions through annual calls for proposals.
OMAFRA uses partnerships, collaboration and strategically targeted research investments to leverage knowledge, technology and intellectual capacity to support growth and development of the agriculture and agri-food sectors.
Provincial Agri-Food Awards
There are several annual awards that recognize top producers and innovators across the agri-food sector in Ontario.
Since 2006, the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence has recognized the innovative contributions of producers, processors, agri-food organizations and rural communities in Ontario. Their innovations improve existing products, create new jobs and grow Ontario's economy. In 2016, 50 award recipients were recognized at seven regional awards events across Ontario. Five recipients received special recognition at the 12th Premier's Agri-Food Summit in December:
Details on these award winners are available at: www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/premier_award/index.html
Northern Ontario Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing Sector Strategy
At the forefront of OMAFRA's efforts to develop new opportunities for the agri-food sector is a strategy for the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing (AAFP) Sector in Northern Ontario. The province's Growth Plan for Northern Ontario has identified the AAFP sector as one of 11 priority sectors that can help to diversify and grow the North.
OMAFRA is currently creating a strategy for the AAFP Sector in Northern Ontario. The strategy's goal is to strengthen the role of agriculture, aquaculture and food processing in the economy of Northern Ontario. In 2016, OMAFRA published a discussion paper on this topic, and engaged with northern and other stakeholders, including First Nations and Métis, who provided feedback which the ministry is using to develop the strategy. Launch of the final strategy is currently scheduled for spring 2017.
Climate change is likely to affect agriculture in many ways, through changing temperature and precipitation patterns; changing water availability; and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as storms, heat waves, floods and droughts. Climate change will pose risks to all aspects of agricultural businesses. These include roads and drainage systems; changing trade routes and increased variability in trade; changing dynamics of pests and diseases; risks to building infrastructure; and production systems.
However, climate change may also present opportunities for the agri-food sector. These include an increased productivity of crops; a potentially longer growing season; and northward expansion of crop production. Adapting to a changing climate will help producers to reduce the risks posed by these impacts. OMAFRA is committed to helping the agricultural industry build resiliency to be better able to adapt to a changing climate.
Jobs and Prosperity Fund - Food and Beverage Program
Ontario's food and beverage processing industry is the largest and most diverse in Canada, and is Ontario's second largest manufacturing sector. It contributes almost $12.1 billion to the province's GDP. The sector generates about $38.9 billion in revenues per year and employs close to 97,000 people in more than 3,800 locations across the province. That is why government support is a crucial part of Ontario's overall plan for supporting the agri-food sector.
Ontario's Jobs and Prosperity Fund's food and beverage program provides funding for investments that help create sustainable jobs. The fund also aims to enhance innovation, productivity and market access, and strengthen supply chains in the food, beverage and bio-product processing sectors. OMAFRA successfully launched the first year of the Food and Beverage Growth Fund in 2015 with the announcement of $7.5 million in investments for food processing projects, leveraging a total investment of $62.3 million and creating or preserving more than 715 jobs. To date, the Food and Beverage Growth Fund has contributed $9.2 million to four projects that will create or retain 1,050 jobs with a total investment of more than $85 million.
As an example of investments under this program, Ontario invested $5million in P&H Milling Group's Hamilton location, as part of a $40 million project to build a bulk mill with multi-modal access. The site is expected to process 25 per cent more grain and take in 10 per cent more wheat annually. The project is expected to retain 200 jobs and create 16 new jobs.
Another example is Super-Pufft Snacks Corporation in Mississauga. Ontario is investing $1 million to help the company purchase and install a new canister crisp line. Super-Pufft will invest almost $9 million in the new line, allowing the company to double its production capacity and capitalize on new export opportunities. The company exports its canisters to more than 30 countries.
Trade Missions to India and China
Ontario's goal is to encourage even more growth in the agri-food sector - and to accelerate this growth. The demand for safe and high-quality food products is on the rise, both at home and around the world. OMAFRA knows that Ontario's food processing sector has tremendous potential to meet that demand.
In 2015 Ontario's agri-food exports rose to just over $14 billion, an increase of nearly 13 per cent. All indications are that Ontario is going to keep growing its export markets. Ontario's recent trade missions to India and China introduced Ontario agri-food exporters to the world's two fastest growing markets and laid the groundwork for potential opportunities to attract investment for Ontario's agri-food sector. The trade missions also helped stakeholders in Ontario's agri-food sector identify how to best approach the potential of the Indian and Chinese markets and develop strategies to access those markets. These missions are part of Ontario's Going Global Trade Strategy to help Ontario's businesses - particularly small to medium-sized enterprises - expand into priority markets and, ultimately, create jobs and expand economic growth in Ontario.
Internal Trade Agreement
On July 22, 2016, the provincial premiers reached an agreement-in-principle on a new Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). The CFTA establishes a new framework for interprovincial commerce that better promotes trade, investment and labour mobility across provincial and territorial lines. The aim of this agreement-in-principle is to improve the flow of goods across internal borders, reduce bureaucratic red tape and allow workers to move more freely across the country. Such an agreement could have benefits for Ontario's agri-food sector.
Community-Led Agri-food Economic Development
Agriculture businesses are a key economic driver in many municipalities across Ontario. Because of this, municipalities are in a unique position to take a proactive role in strengthening the agri-food sector while also pursuing their municipal interests in helping businesses thrive individually and collectively. Consequently, as an important part of ensuring the sustainability of Ontario's agri-food across sector, the ministry is encouraging municipalities to take specific actions to promote economic development for agriculture.
Opportunities exist for municipalities and other partners to help support the agri-food sector by undertaking actions such as developing regional agri-food strategies; integrating agricultural economic development with infrastructure, goods movement and freight considerations; and improving opportunities to bolster key gaps in the agri-food value chain such as food processing and skills development.
In January 2017, the Ontario government announced the re-launch of the Rural Economic Development (RED) program. This program will help support local projects that will attract investment, create jobs and boost economic growth in rural communities by removing barriers to local economic growth. The RED program can help to support community strategies to grow the agri-food sector, for example, Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) projects focussed on retaining and growing agri-food businesses within a region.
Looking to the future, Ontario and its partners must continue to grow the agri-food sector so that it continues to be one of the leading economic drivers of economic growth and employment in the province. OMAFRA will continue to work with its many stakeholders and partners to realize this goal.
Please consider the following discussion questions as guidelines for providing feedback on the policy objective Strengthening Ontario's Agri-food Sector:
Ontario is committed to ensuring a vibrant and diverse Ontario agri-food sector into the future, while enabling the production of local food and niche-market products to meet growing consumer demand. Ontario is also undergoing a demographic shift to an increasingly diverse population. This increase in diversity has implications for Ontarians' dietary wants, and opens opportunities to grow a wider range of agricultural products. As well, Ontario's population growth, rising incomes and increasing urbanization continue to influence food consumption patterns.
In terms of labour force, Ontario has more people working in the agricultural sector than any other province. According to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours, and data from the federal government's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, Ontario employed approximately 103,000 people in the agricultural sector in 2014, including self-employed, paid labour, and foreign workers. This represented about one quarter of Canada's agricultural workforce.
Many of Ontario farmers, however, are nearing retirement. Similar to the aging Ontario population as a whole, the average age of farm operators is increasing. The Census of Agriculture, 2011, reports that eight per cent of Ontario farmers are less than 35 years of age, while 42.5 per cent are between 35 and 54 years of age. Farmers over 55 years of age represent 49 per cent of the total.
With the current generation of farmers nearing retirement, this opens up opportunities for beginning farmers to take over existing farm businesses or to become new agricultural entrepreneurs. People with farming experience from outside of Canada, young people with an interest in farming but who have no experience, and individuals seeking a mid-life or later career change see agriculture as an opportunity. New arrivals to Ontario bring knowledge of world crops and farming practices. Young adults with a postsecondary education have developed skills of critical thinking, scientific analysis, technology, and an awareness of business principles. Individuals seeking a career change can apply their prior learning from the workplace to new agricultural endeavours. There are many sets of skills and broad knowledge that can be applied to the business of agriculture.
Ontario has the largest food and beverage processing sector in Canada in terms of employment and is a key source of employment for the province. The food and beverage sector is facing similar challenges as the agricultural sector in terms of an aging workforce. Recent trends suggest that the sector is also facing a gap in skilled, qualified labour as it evolves towards greater automation and technology. There are a variety of post-secondary programs available in food and beverage processing that can help to address this gap in training.
OMAFRA Programs and Supports
Ontario provides support for established farmers, as well as and new and beginning farmers. OMAFRA's programs and resources enhance producers' business management skills to explore new markets and foster long-term profitability. As well, a broad range of learning and educational opportunities can provide agricultural entrepreneurship options for new and beginning farmers.
OMAFRA has an easy-to-navigate portal for informational resources for new and beginning farmers. The online resource Starting a Farm in Ontario - Business Information Bundle for New Farmers provides links on new and innovative strategies, training, education, business planning, marketing, farm business transfer, and more. Details on the resource can be found here www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/newentrant/newent.htm.
The Business Resource Guide for New Farmers, developed by OMAFRA staff, explores farming options and walks new farmers through the steps to start a farm, building a business plan, crop production basics, livestock operation basics, and more. The Guide is available in seven languages.
Factsheets like Starting an Organic Farm in Ontario are practical technical guides to starting and maintaining a farming business for new and beginning farmers. Links to resources are available at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/agbusdev.html.
Under Growing Forward 2, farmers can access free workshops such as "Growing Your Farm Profits," "Environmental Farm Plan," and "Food Safety." The Agriculture Management Institute (AMI) has taken a leading role in developing resource materials, online training options and hands-on workshops and courses to help producers and processors enhance their agri-business management skills. AMI is also developing and supporting networks across the agri-food and agri-products sectors through leadership development, developing research and analysis for businesses. The results will ensure that Ontario agriculture and agri-businesses will be positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to new market opportunities. More information on the Agriculture Management Institute is available here takeanewapproach.ca.
OMAFRA's Exploring Value Added Opportunities, an online learning tool is a convenient, online learning platform for farmers. The four modules last about 45 minutes and help farmers work through exercises to add value to their current business operation. When the modules are finished, farmers have a better understanding of the 'value added landscape' and new ideas for their operation. The eLearning modules and workshops are a valuable learning tool for new farmers looking to expand. More information can be accessed at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/diversifyfarmbus/valueadded.htm.
Each family farm business is unique and no single approach to farm succession planning works for everyone. So OMAFRA developed the Farm Succession Planning Guide around the steps of the succession planning process from discussion through to implementation and monitoring of progress. In the Guide, there is also a series of tools and resources available to facilitate the farm transfer process.
Growing Your Farm Profits workshops are the place for new farmers to start planning for their business success. The two-day workshops, with technical content developed by OMAFRA, provide the tools needed to assess farm management practices and understand how proactive planning can influence effective decision making. Workshops are delivered locally through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Additional information is available here www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/busdev/gyfp/index.htm.
OMAFRA is working with the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association to provide training and support for farmers to start and grow their On-Farm markets and pick-your-own operations. With training for on-farm marketing, Ontario farmers have new opportunities to sell their locally grown products while building strong relationships with their customers. Depending on the products, such as farm fresh meat, eggs, maple syrup and honey, farmers are then able to market their products year round. Information is available from the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association at ontariofarmfresh.com/about-us.
Other Programs and Initiatives
OMAFRA also supports the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP), a 19-month executive development opportunity for current and emerging leaders who want to shape the future of agriculture and the food industry. The program includes a series of eight three-day seminars, two study tours - one North American and one international - and one issues analysis project, all focused on subjects of relevance to agriculture, agri-food trends and the dynamics of change.
Most recently, OMAFRA also hosted the 2016 Rural Ontario Summit. This event, with its theme of "Building the Future", engaged youth, municipal and business leaders, representatives from community and agriculture organizations, and First Nations and Métis communities in a discussion on attracting and retaining youth in rural Ontario. The discussions throughout the day focused on four key pillars, including local employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in a range of sectors including agriculture.
Ontario will publish a 2016 Rural Ontario Summit report in spring 2017 which will include the ideas, feedback and best practices identified at the summit. Through the report, the province will identify ways for communities to take action on youth retention and attraction in rural Ontario. Plans for a third Rural Ontario Summit in 2018 are underway.
Since 1915, 4-H Ontario has been a place for youth to become tomorrow's agricultural leaders by building skills, knowledge and confidence. Through hands-on learning about agriculture or food, community-based education and leadership training, 4-H helps youth to prepare for the future of the agriculture sector.
Over the years, the organization has put a lot of resources towards expanding its audience, and growing its mandate. Ontario continues to invest in 4-H with the recent announcement of $3.5 million over five years.
In schools, the AgScape program (formerly Ontario Agri Food Education) is developing new resources for Ontario teachers to connect students with real-world information about the agri-food sector. AgScape helps Ontario students understand where their food comes. Past programming included curriculum-linked lesson plans and classroom visits from AgScape/OAFE Teacher Ambassadors.
AgScape also is working to develop four learning activities in science, mathematics, language, and business for use within the Agriculture Specialist High Skills Major program available to Ontario's secondary school students.
There are several post-secondary institutions that provide instruction and degree programs in agri-food-related subjects. For example, the University of Guelph offers bachelor's degrees in areas such as animal science, bio-resource management, crops, horticulture, and organic agriculture, to name a few. The University of Guelph also offers diploma courses in agriculture and horticulture, and certificates in areas such as growing plants for profit, and sustainable urban agriculture.
A variety of post-secondary programs in the province also offer education and training in food and beverage processing. Notably, the Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology at Conestoga College opened in 2011 and offers theoretical and practical training in a variety of areas, including operations, techniques and maintenance, sanitation, food safety and quality assurance. Other colleges also offer diplomas and certificates in food processing, and the University of Guelph offers graduate and post-graduate degrees in Food Science.
Various Ontario colleges of applied arts and technology also offer diplomas in areas such as greenhouse technician, horticulture technician, and sustainable agriculture, as well as online courses in fields like urban agriculture; community gardens and food secure cities; principles of sustainable farming; and local food businesses and cooperatives.
Agriculture and agri-food opportunities are expanding with new growth in local food, niche market products and export opportunities. Exciting new technological advances are on the cutting edge of agriculture, making it an exciting field in which to live and work. But many people find farming a difficult industry to enter. While the training and education opportunities OMAFRA delivers directly and through its partners are first class, more can be done to help new and beginning farmers position themselves to take advantage of new and evolving markets. For example, developing new business models in farm ownership could assist with identifying ways to help new entrants afford the substantial cost of farm ownership.
Please consider the following discussion questions which can serve as a guideline for providing input on the policy objective Support for New and Beginning Farmers:
Farming and the agri-food sector are crucial to Ontario's long-term growth and prosperity. Because the sector impacts both urban and rural residents while also providing top-quality food at home and valuable commodities for export, it is no surprise that everyone involved in the sector is eager to see it grow and thrive.
Through the four policy themes outlined above, Ontario has a solid basis for growth and development. By preserving the productive capacity of agricultural land; supporting the local sourcing of food; strengthening Ontario's agri-food sector; and supporting new farmers, Ontario can look forward to a bright farming future.
This future will continue to be brighter thanks to the hard work and innovation that has always characterized the sector. But it is also crucial that everyone with a stake in this sector's future has a say in what it will look like - and this discussion paper provides an opportunity to do just that.
OMAFRA will collect and consolidate all the feedback received, and use it to inform the development of future policies and programs to support Farms Forever across Ontario.
For more information, visit our website at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/policy/farmsforever.htm.
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