Ontario Agriculture Week – StatementOctober 9, 2013
Ontario Agriculture Week was created by Bert Johnson, the PC MPP for Perth. For 15 years it has been a time to celebrate all the contributions of our farmers: the food they grow, the jobs they create, how they protect the environment and how they continue to support their communities.
This government has now introduced a bill that would replace Ontario Agriculture Week. We believe in the importance of local food, but not at the expense of celebrating everything that the agriculture sector contributes to our province. I appreciate that the Premier is open to our amendment to have two separate weeks and more opportunities to celebrate.
Ontario Agriculture Week is a good time to look at the state of the industry and their challenges. On Monday, the Premier challenged them to double their growth rate, but I was disappointed she provided no details on how she was going to address the barriers that our agriculture and agri-food industries are facing. She didn’t acknowledge that this government is part of the problem.
In our survey, 77% of farmers and 75% of the food processors said red tape was increasing; 79% of food processors said the impact of increasing hydro rates was significant. And paying for gas plants will not help reduce that cost.
During the hearings yesterday on the Local Food Act, the consistent message was that the Local Food Act could and should be strengthened. If we want the industry to grow, it is not enough to just wish it to happen. As one member of the OFA said yesterday, we need to give them the tools, and then the government needs to get out of the way.