This column is to keep you informed about the key issues that OFVGA is tackling on behalf of Ontario's fruit and vegetable farmers.
National policy issues
OFVGA continues to work closely with the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) by bringing in additional government relations expertise from McMillan Vantage as needed on national issues. A recent example of this work includes a final push to ensure the federal government was aware of the significant negative implications of the federal carbon tax on heating and cooling of agricultural buildings, specifically for greenhouses, if an exemption or relief was not granted.
OFVGA is also collaborating with CHC on addressing ongoing concerns with re-evaluations conducted by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and strategies for solving these concerns for the long term.
A number of OFVGA representatives attended CHC and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's Fall Harvest lobby event on Parliament Hill in November. The event was successful in holding more than 50 meetings with politicians and staff. The focus of the meetings included trade, labour, crop protection and the national food policy.
Staying focused on federal issues is becoming more and more important with the federal election looming next October.
OFVGA recently submitted comments to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in response to the proposed decisions from the special reviews on clothianidin and thiamethoxam in support of continued use, citing the value to fruit and vegetable production, and the limited risks associated with horticultural use patterns.
Work continues with respect to mancozeb and developing a response to the most recent proposed decision, which is available for comment until January 3. Ontario Agriculture Minister Hardeman recently wrote to the federal Minister of Health expressing the importance of mancozeb to the horticultural sector. OFVGA is hopeful that increased government awareness of the impact of PMRA re-evaluation decisions can be leveraged to develop support for an improved re-evaluation process.
OFVGA was pleased with the Ontario government's release of Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, which has been proposed to make changes to Ontario's labour legislation, including minimum wage. Support for Bill 47 has been demonstrated through a submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, highlighting that the pause on minimum wage until October 2020 is needed for farmers to adjust. Monitoring of this legislation will continue to ensure that it is passed and implemented before January 2019.
Environment and conservation
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario recently released a report titled Back to Basics which highlights a number of ongoing water quality issues, including references to commercial fertilizer use and phosphorus run-off from farms. OFVGA will be monitoring the government's response to this report and ensuring that government understands the steps taken by the industry to mitigate environmental concerns.
OFVGA is awaiting the Ontario government's plans for environmental and climate change policy for the province. While the cap-and-trade program has officially been repealed with the passing of Bill 4, The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, the province has signaled its intent to implement a new environment strategy. OFVGA will be providing horticulture's perspective once more information is known.
The federal government recently announced additional details on its federal carbon tax backstop. OFVGA was pleased with the relief offered for heating fuels for greenhouses, however there are still aspects of primary food production that will not experience exemption or carbon tax relief. The Ontario government has indicated that it will be releasing its environmental and climate change plans for public comment soon, which OFVGA will be monitoring closely.
OFVGA continues to support the government's goal to reduce red tape and regulatory duplication for farmers. As OFVGA prioritizes red tape reduction opportunities, the fruit and vegetable sector is encouraged to identify specific examples and relay them to the OFVGA.
December 11, 2018 is the deadline for resolutions to be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be presented and voted on at the OFVGA annual general meeting on February 19. This is a great opportunity for the Ontario industry to help shape the focus and direction of the OFVGA moving forward.
For more information on any industry issues, please contact Gordon Stock, senior policy and government relations advisor, at email@example.com or 519-763-6160, ext. 125. More detailed updates can also be found at www.ofvga.org/news.