What livestock groups want from the next Ontario government

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Ontario heads to the polls June 2, 2022, to select its next government.

We’ve heard from the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO), on the six priority areas the organization is focused on. But what does the livestock sector need?

For the dairy, beef, and lamb sectors, there are common asks surrounding infrastructure needs and risk management support, but there are also sector-specific needs, too.

Here is what the Ontario Sheep Farmers, Beef Farmers of Ontario, and Dairy Farmers of Ontario want the next government to focus on:

Lamb and sheep

  • Ontario’s sheep industry is critical part of Ontario’s agricultural industry and is integral in rebuilding Ontario’s economy. Ontario is the third largest lamb market for lamb processing in North America; behind Colorado and California
  • Sheep are environmental powerhouses, improving soil health, and providing wildlife habitat
  • For agriculture to reach its potential, there is a need to increase investment commensurate with agriculture’s expanded role as a public provider of goods and services
  • Grazing livestock play an integral role mitigating climate change and government support for implementing greenhouse gas reduction activities such as rotational grazing is encouraged
  • Agriculture is being implicated in government policy and programs as a potential driver for various public goods and services such as preserving and enhancing biodiversity, conserving, and protecting the environment, providing safe affordable food and being an economic driver. Some of these public goods and services fall outside the normal scope of agriculture and food, placing added costs and expectations on the shoulders of farmers
  • Increasing the province’s investment in the Ontario Risk Management Program (RMP) by raising the program cap from $150 million to $250 million annually to ensure our farmers have the tools to manage today’s food production risks.

Beef cattle

  • Commit to increase the cap on the Ontario Risk Management Program (RMP) by $100 million annually
  • Commit to increase investment in programs that support meat processing capacity and infrastructure, and the training, recruitment, and retention of meat cutters and industrial butchers
  • Commit to support mental health services and resources for farmers and agri-food workers. Financial insecurity is one of the leading causes of mental health issues for farmers. No one should be asked to produce food at a loss
  • Commit to preserve farmland through sound provincial land use policy that sees agricultural lands, including marginal lands used for livestock grazing and carbon sequestration, protected as the highest and best use of our province’s arable land
  • Commit to conduct a review with the agriculture sector of farm inspection and enforcement practices employed under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act

Dairy

  • Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) is seeking a partnership between the dairy sector and the government to bring jobs, economic growth and increased processing capacity for our sector through investments in a new processing facility in Ontario. New investments are needed to help the dairy sector’s aging infrastructure to drive future market growth for the sector and secure our local supply chains New processing facilities will also help reduce GHG emissions and transportation costs by locating the facility closer to milk producers.
  • For infrastructure, DFO is seeking a partnership with government for an infrastructure renewal fund that would be used to upgrade and modernize the outdated existing dairy processing facilities. This fund would help bring sustainable practices and technologies to the sector, which will help improve our competitiveness and attract more private investment.
  • These projects will support local high paying good quality jobs in rural Ontario and support the province’s regional economic development objectives, says DFO
  • Focus on education and training programming. The current training in Ontario is not meeting the needs of the future dairy sector workforce. DFO is looking to partner with the government to invest in modernizing training facilities, incentivizing producer participation in knowledge transfer opportunities and encourage the recruitment of job-seekers and international students.