Paul Vickers, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) Grey-Bruce director and executive member, made a presentation April 5 to Bruce County council.

He’s at the provincial level; Chris Cossitt, president of the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture, represents the county level; there’s also the federal level.

During his presentation, Vickers introduced new member services representative Margaret Vincent, who provides support to local county federations, and almost 1,600 OFA members in Bruce County.

Vickers described agriculture in Bruce County as “huge,” with 1,946 farms and 510,477 acres of farmland. Across the province, there are 38,000 family farm businesses, with farm cash receipts supporting $1.6 billion in GDP and 23,659 employees.

In addition to its board of directors, the OFA employs staff and researchers. The group is heavily involved in many issues; in 2022, the team completed 50 government submissions, on average reviewing 120 per year. Topics included changes to Ontario’s Building Code, veterinary malpractice insurance, proposed amendments to the Ontario Land Tribunal Act, Bill 23 – More Homes Built Faster Act, and much more.

Vickers commented that the OFA provided a “balanced” opinion on Bill 23, saying, “We all need a place to live… the OFA wants to make sure we use the land as efficiently as we possibly can.”

Vincent described the resources available online to OFA members and others ( including Agriculture Matters: A Guide for Municipal Councillors and Staff, Guide and Checklist to Support Agriculture in Your Municipality, and Resources to Support Agriculture Economic Development and Planning.

Vickers spoke about OFA initiatives that support agriculture – the Home Grown campaign, Feeding your Future, Six by Sixteen (a pandemic initiative that tried to get people under age 16 to cook six meals using local produce), the Farmer Wellness Initiative (“Sometimes people just need a place to talk,” said Vickers) and Always in Season.

County Coun. Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie, commented on one issue that he finds concerning – the cost of insurance. 

“Insurance squashes a lot of great initiatives,” said Hammell, noting, “The Arran-Tara Fall Fair has to pay over $6,000 in insurance to have a one-day fair that exhibits agriculture to the community.” 

Hammell said he knows of several farmers who no longer do snow removal for their neighbours because of insurance. He asked if there’s anything the OFA is doing on this matter.

Vickers said everyone is having a problem with liability insurance right now. 

“It is a situation we are looking into,” he said. 

Vincent noted that there are fewer carriers willing to insure large events, which adds to the problem.

County Coun. Kenneth Craig noted that if “we had a company show up that said we’re going to do $700 million in production and employ 5,000 people and affect the air you breathe and the water you drink and the food you eat, we’d bend over backwards.” He added that when the province and county move closer to Net Zero, “it will be to the farm community that we go to look for our carbon credits… they’ll hold the cards in their hands.”

Vickers commented, “Our economic impact on the province of Ontario is huge… we are a powerhouse that I feel sometimes we don’t always get our dues.”

County Warden Chris Peabody, Brockton, commented that on county council, six of the eight members have farm backgrounds. As it turns out, the other one besides himself, Garry Michi of South Bruce Peninsula, has a farm, and even has a farm number.

Peabody noted that “this council is committed to the overarching importance of agriculture to the county. For example, we were very quick to pass a motion speaking out against the limits on fertilizer production that the Liberal government was proposing, and very supportive of (MP) Ben Lobb’s initiative on removing the carbon tax… Bruce County is very committed to the OFA and all of our farmers.”

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 14, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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