February is annual meeting time for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) and for the first time in three years, we’ll be gathering again in person for this event.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is an opportunity to participate in discussions around resolutions, for our voting delegates to help shape the activities and direction of the organization for the year ahead, and for everyone to have a chance to meet new faces and reconnect with familiar ones.
And although the OFVGA provides regular email updates and reports in The Grower about our ongoing activities, the AGM is also your chance to hear first-hand from your board of directors and section chairs on the work we’ve been doing on your behalf this past year.
Here are some highlights:
The Progressive Conservative election win last spring returned many familiar faces to the cabinet table at Queen’s Park. Since that election, we have been able to build on many existing relationships that have been established over the past five years, which is a valuable asset as we continue our work to bring the issues and challenges of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers onto the government’s radar.
This past year, the OFVGA was able to return to focusing on other issues beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, one of which is the overall competitiveness of our industry. This includes inflation and the rising cost of inputs, the challenges and inconsistencies of environmental compliance approvals, and the need for better energy infrastructure in rural areas.
Together with our Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC) partners – Beef Farmers of Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork, Ontario Sheep Farmers, Veal Farmers of Ontario – we have asked the provincial government to increase its investment into Self-Directed Risk Management (SDRM) and the Risk Management Program (RMP). It’s a safety net that growers depend on to deal with the kind of uncertainty that we’re currently facing, and we’re encouraged by the progress achieved so far in our work with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
In tandem with rising production costs has been the issue of food inflation. Food costs continue to increase at stubbornly high levels, but they’re not translating into higher prices for growers. We’ve tried hard to get that message out to Ontarians, including through an op ed that we were able to get printed in the Toronto Star, Niagara Falls Review, and the Kitchener Waterloo Record, as well as posted on Reddit and a few other sites.
Also affecting our competitiveness is the impact of excessive red tape, such as inconsistent interpretation and application of Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECAs). We understand the need for environmental performance, but it must be balanced with the need to produce food and to ensure farmers aren’t buried under excessive bureaucracy and long approval times.
Our province is also in dire need of upgraded energy infrastructure so that growers – particularly in the greenhouse sector – can adopt more sustainable technologies, reduce their energy costs and ultimately, grow more food.
We continue to work closely with Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada on topics of national importance, such as continued access to crop protection tools and seasonal agricultural workers, development of a code of conduct for the grocery retail sector, and getting legislation passed that will ensure financial protection for growers in cases of buyer bankruptcy.
Overall, we recognize that as an industry, we need to talk more about what we do, why we do it, and why protecting our domestic food production capacity is so critically important. We started down this path in 2021 with the More than a Migrant Worker initiative and we are now turning our focus to other issues with a more targeted and strategic approach to external communications.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to consider participating in the OFVGA AGM this year. It will take place on February 21 at the Hilton Niagara Falls/Fallsview Suites, just one day ahead of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention, and registration is available at ofvga.org.
I look forward to seeing you there!