OFA welcomes infrastructure investments for rural Ontario

GUELPH – On  Nov. 4, prior to  last week’s official budget announcement, the Ontario government announced the allocation of nearly $1 billion to expand and improve rural broadband and cellular access.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) states in a press release it has continuously advocated on behalf of members to secure broadband expansion across rural Ontario. In today’s environment,  the federation says access to fast, reliable broadband Internet is vital to the success of Ontario’s farm businesses and rural communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized a gap in coverage and future need for broadband expansion as it has left businesses pivoting to virtual marketplaces and youth learning in virtual classrooms,” the release states.

“OFA is extremely pleased to see the government respond with a significant investment towards expanding broadband and cellular access to rural communities,” said OFA president Keith Currie. “We’ve advocated strongly for better broadband access and this announcement will be greatly welcomed by the farming community as it will enable farmers to successfully run their businesses without infrastructure limitations.”

The provincial government also announced an investment of $25.5 million over three years towards the Agri-Food Prevention and Control Innovation Program. The initiative  aims to reduce disruptions in business operations and risks of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, while supporting the sector’s food production capacity. The investment will support efforts to innovate and invest in new technologies, leading to increased efficiencies and productivity and helping to support resilience and long-term sustainability and growth in the agri-food sector. Innovation resulting from this investment will further support efforts to modernize workplaces to enhance worker health and safety.

The federation says the government is also showing its support towards initiatives that will sustain Ontario’s agri-food supply chain and help to ensure it is in a position to respond proactively to challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as weather future market fluctuations.

Additionally, a pandemic-motivated $5 million funding allocation to agriculture and horticulture societies was unveiled to ensure their survival during these difficult times.

“Agriculture and horticulture societies are the backbone of our rural communities,” stated Currie. “They promote Ontario agriculture, food literacy, volunteerism, showcase the importance of rural life and bring consumers and producers together. Providing support to ensure they survive not only this pandemic, but for generations to come is a great initiative.”