Implementing The Ontario Government's Innovation And Prosperity Plan For The Agri-Food Sector

Archived Release

Implementing The Ontario Government's Innovation And Prosperity Plan For The Agri-Food Sector

Backgrounder - In Support Of Premier's Agri-Food Summit
TORONTO, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - The Ontario government supports and appreciates the contributions of the province's agri-food sector, which pumps $30 billion into the provincial economy, employs 650,000 people and ships $8.4 billion in exports annually. Key milestones in implementing the government's plan are:

Competitiveness and economic support

- Signed the Agricultural Policy Framework - over the five-year life
of the program, Canada and Ontario will have invested more than
$1.7 billion in the agri-food sector.

- Involved in 50 investment cases resulting in about $400 million in
investment and creating and retaining more than 2,300 jobs so far
in 2005-06.

- Established the Ontario Apple Growers marketing board, allowing
commercial growers to speak with a single voice, provide for the
future through research and education, and increase markets.

- Addressed the immediate financial needs of the agricultural sector
by providing up to $188 million in federal and provincial funds to
help stabilize the industry and give relief to farmers. This
support comes in two forms: $172 million over three years in
business risk management programs under the Agricultural Policy
Framework and up to $16 million in Ontario funding in interim
payments for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) repositioning
as part of the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program.

- Delivered much-needed funding to assist the ruminant livestock
sector recover from the fallout of the discovery of BSE. The
provincial government provided $84 million. When combined with
federal funding, about $317 million was delivered to Ontario's
ruminant livestock sector.

- Continued support to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association by
providing $4 million in further funding to maintain deadstock
collection, in addition to $1.3 million the previous year. In
addition, $800,000 was provided for three projects to increase
slaughter capacity in the province, which was part of $7 million
committed for this purpose.

- Provided an additional $79 million to assist grain and oilseed
producers.

- Provided $6 million under the Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure
Program to farmers and municipalities for drainage construction,
improvement and maintenance.

- Exempted the land transfer tax for farms that change ownership
between members of the same family, which will help pass on the
farming tradition to future generations and save their hard-earned
dollars.

- Exempted farmers from an administrative fee for permits to take
water applications.

- Introduced new, more equitable tax assessment criteria for
equestrian properties to ensure that farms on which horses are
bred, raised, maintained and cared for, are treated consistently
with other types of farm activities.

- Simplified the process for farmers to claim their retail sales tax
exemption when buying eligible farm-related goods, services and
insurance for their businesses. Effective April 1, 2005, farmers
could use their general farm organization identification cards to
obtain point-of-sale retail sales tax exemptions.

- With agricultural counterparts in the federal and provincial
governments, made improvements to the Canadian Agricultural Income
Stabilization program to ensure that Ontario's farmers have access
to business risk management programs that meet their needs.

- Delivered an active export development program focusing on
identifying foreign buyers and linking them with Ontario
exporters. Recent accomplishments for Ontario include more than
$10 million from one company's bakery products being sold to
Wal-Mart U.S.A.; snacks, baked products, frozen entrées and
appetizers being sold to a major retailer in both Texas and
Mexico; private label energy bars and potato chips being sold in
the United Kingdom; gourmet cookies being sold in Manhattan.

- Launched a new Foodland Ontario television advertising campaign
encouraging consumers to buy Ontario fresh fruits and vegetables.

- Presented the Foodland Ontario Retailer Awards to 24 food
retailers who have shown outstanding commitment and creativity in
their marketing of Ontario fruit and vegetable products.

Strong rural communities

- Invested $1 million to complete the Rudy H. Brown Rural
Development Centre at Ridgetown College. This funding is in
addition to the province's allocation of $2.5 million in 2004.
When completed, the centre will include classrooms, a lecture
theatre, office and administration space to accommodate Ridgetown
College's increasing enrolment while newly created community space
will be used to host local events. This funding complements the
efforts of the Ridgetown College Agri-Food Foundation, which has
raised half of the total funding needed for this project.

- Invested a total of $24 million over five years in projects
including: infrastructure improvements at Ridgetown College's new
Rural Development Centre; health and safety upgrades to the Food
Quality and Safety Laboratory, and improvements to Ontario's three
agricultural colleges and 14 research stations.

- Provided a $50-million transition fund to assist tobacco growers
wishing to exit the industry, and encourage economic
diversification and innovation in their communities.

- Announced the intention to preserve the province's valuable
agricultural heritage by taking action to transfer ownership of
the Country Heritage Park, in Milton, to Country Heritage
Experiences Inc. A total of $750,000 will go towards support of
the park and a further $143,000 will be provided to help maintain
and preserve the collections if the transfer is completed.

- Renewed an agreement with 4-H Ontario by providing $2.1 million
over three years to enable the organization to continue its
important work in developing skills in rural youth.

- Helped more than 4,000 young people find summer jobs in rural
Ontario to enhance their skills and gain valuable experience.

- Helped protect agricultural workers by extending Occupational
Health and Safety Act (OHSA) coverage to farming operations. The
regulation is to take effect June 2006.

- Appointed an Agricultural Advisory Team to ensure that Ontario's
growth management strategy addresses the concerns of agricultural
stakeholders. The team included former federal agricultural
minister Lyle Vanclief and former chair of the Christian Farmers'
Federation of Ontario Bob Bedggood.

- Simplified the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) formulas, which
are used to determine the recommended distance between livestock
facilities and other land uses. This will ensure that livestock
uses and non-farm development are treated consistently. This
initiative was recommended by the Agricultural Advisory Team.

Food safety

- Commissioned Justice Haines to conduct an independent review of
Ontario's meat inspection system. His report indicated Ontario has
a good system in place and now, the province is making it even
better. One of the results was the introduction of stronger
standards for meat safety in Ontario. The new regulation, among
other things, requires: licensing and inspection of freestanding
meat processors; strengthened process controls at meat processing
facilities; and training for food handlers.

- Hired more full-time meat inspectors. After an extensive
competitive hiring process, the ministry has 61 more full-time and
61 part-time meat inspectors, in addition to 10 full-time
inspectors already on board, for a total of 132 meat inspectors
working as ministry employees.

- Introduced the HACCP Advantage system for small- and medium-sized
food processing plants. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point
(HACCP) is a food safety system that focuses on identifying and
preventing problems from occurring during food processing. The
HACCP Advantage is a feasible, practical system that maintains
high food safety standards.

- Signed a federal-Ontario emergency response plan against foreign
animal disease that better safeguards the health of the province's
livestock and citizens.

- Implemented the Meat Plant Assistance Program, a $25.35-million
program to be delivered over four years. The program will assist
the meat industry in education, training, making technical and
business decisions and making the facility and operational
upgrades required to conform to the new meat regulation. Plant
operators can obtain up to $25,000 in financial assistance under
this program.

- Created the Office of the Chief Veterinarian for Ontario. This
office responds to a key recommendation in the Haines Report,
protects public health and encourages greater competitiveness in
the agri-food sector.

Research and innovation

- Invested $4.6 million in upgrading or replacing aging
infrastructure at 18 agricultural facilities across the province
to ensure the agri-food sector retains its competitive edge.

- Announced the transfer of ownership of three colleges and 14
research stations to the Agricultural Research Institute of
Ontario to promote new investment in Ontario's agri-food research
facilities.

- Launched, in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,
the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI), a $5-million business
management and skills initiative. AMI will provide Ontario farm
families, managers and farm advisors with improved access to the
tools they need to help them achieve higher levels of business and
economic success.

- Provided, with the government of Canada, more than $5 million in
innovation projects that will strengthen links between producers
and consumers, identify commercialization prospects resulting from
advancements in life sciences and bioproducts, and capture
opportunities related to new trends in healthy living. The
initiatives are cost-shared under the $15.2-million Science and
Innovation envelope of the Canada-Ontario Agricultural Policy
Framework.

- Created the new Institute for Agri-Food Policy Innovation to
develop innovative recommendations with long-term policy benefits
to improve the quality of life of all Ontarians.

Healthy environment

- Investing $520 million over 12 years to boost ethanol production
in Ontario. This is part of the government commitment to require
an average of five per cent ethanol in all gasoline sold in
Ontario by January 1, 2007. This would be equivalent to taking
200,000 cars off the road or reducing annual greenhouse gas
emissions by about 800,000 tonnes.

- In conjunction with the Ontario Centre for Environmental
Technology Advancement, co-ordinated and hosted three workshops on
efficient energy management for 75 plant managers and operators in
London, Burlington and Trenton.

- Implemented, with the federal government and the Ontario Soil and
Crop Improvement Association, two initiatives (Greencover Canada
and Water Supply Expansion) worth $20 million to help farm and
agribusiness operators care for the health of the environment and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

- Introduced nutrient management improvements to ensure that
requirements to protect the environment do not place an unbearable
burden on farmers, nor compromise our commitment to safe, clean
drinking water:
- Established a Nutrient Management Standards Science
Committee
- Committed to funding research through the nutrient
management joint research program

- Invested an additional $3.7 million under the Nutrient Management
Financial Assistance Program to help farmers make environmental
improvements on their operations and meet the requirements of the
Nutrient Management Act. This brings the total to $23.7 million
allocated under the program.

- Partnered on a project to reduce greenhouse gases and generate
green power. A provincial investment of more than $1.6 million
will go towards the creation of an integrated anaerobic digestion
facility that will convert biogas from manure into heat and
electricity. The Lynn Cattle Company Inc. will produce substantial
amounts of electricity - enough to power its own operation as well
as to sell surplus electricity on the market.

- Organized a WaterWise workshop for 58 food and beverage companies
to show them how to develop sound wastewater management strategies
to reduce costs.

Disponible en français

www.omafra.gov.on.ca
For further information: Christopher Flavelle, Minister's Office, (416) 326-3072