OFA Viewpoint: Rural infrastructure, food production on the agenda as OFA heads to Queen’s Park

This week, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is heading to Queen’s Park to meet with members of our provincial government for the first time since last June’s provincial election. It will be both an opportunity to visit with re-elected MPPs as well as get to know some of those who are serving their first terms.

As Ontario’s largest general farm organization, OFA is a conduit between the sector and provincial government. We believe strongly in the power of building relationships and developing a two-way flow of information; at the same time, our job is to represent and advocate for the needs of Ontario’s farmers and rural communities.

Last fall, the provincial government released the Grow Ontario Strategy to increase the production, consumption and manufacturing of Ontario food as well as boost our annual agri-food exports. Ontario’s agri-food industry is up to the challenge, but we need financial and policy support from the provincial government in some very key areas to help us get there.

Investments in rural Ontario’s physical and social infrastructure

Long-term investments into rural roads, bridges, high speed internet and energy infrastructure are essential to attracting new businesses and residents to rural municipalities. Social infrastructure investments in healthcare, mental wellness and schools will make smaller urban centres and rural communities an attractive option for businesses and residents.

Overall, this supports distributed economic development and growth of Ontario’s rural hubs – the only practical, long-term solution to ease our transportation crisis and relieve pressure on the urban housing market.

Improving access to veterinary care in rural and northern Ontario

Veterinarians play a critical role in promoting and protecting the health and welfare of animals, and our limited veterinary capacity in rural and northern Ontario leaves people, animals, and ultimately our food system at risk. A multi-faceted approach combining increased capacity and opportunities with programs and incentives will address rural Ontario’s critical veterinary shortage.

This includes placement and experience opportunities for students, expanded veterinary school programs and financial supports for students, and government-supported veterinary care in under-serviced areas.

Promoting and protecting Ontario’s food producing capacity

It is estimated that if every Ontario household spent $10 a week on local food, it would add an additional $2.4 billion to our provincial economy and create 10,000 new jobs. Encouraging the procurement of locally grown food across the broader public sector – this includes schools, hospitals, long-term care and post-secondary institutions – will strengthen and enhance Ontario’s food supply chain and the provincial economy.

At the same time, boosting funding for Ontario’s government-industry insurance program for farmers will give farmers the tools they need to adapt to future challenges, boost farm business resilience, and ensure future food security.


Paul Vickers is an executive member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Paul Vickers