April 23, 2012

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Today, we have two great agricultural organizations with us here at Queen’s Park: the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

Our farmers contribute greatly to our province’s economy. In 2009, Ontario farm outputs contributed $22 billion in gross economic stimulus. More than 80,000 Ontarians make this their living on farms, and 718,000 Ontarians work in the agri-food sector.

Our farmers work hard and they deserve our support, but there are a number of government policies that hurt our agriculture industry. Our farmers are struggling with too much red tape. Government needs to consult with farmers before they introduce legislation that impacts them. We need to find real solutions when the Endangered Species Act causes problems-such as the bobolink-not just postpone the problem; and to challenges like the OSPCA having huge powers on farms and over farm animal welfare without having the proper training and accountability.

We’ve heard from the OFA and other organizations that this government’s decision to end the slots-at-racetracks partnership will cost tens of thousands of jobs on farms and in our agri-businesses. This afternoon, Tim Hudak and I are looking forward to meeting with these organizations to discuss their challenges and priorities.

We were pleased to work with farmers for years to get a risk management program. Farmers, agricultural organizations and the PC caucus asked for an insurance program that farmers could depend on. We will continue to work with them during the review to make sure that farmers have a program that works.

I want to thank both organizations for coming to Queen’s Park to update us today.