A Year Of Progress For The Ontario Government And The Agri-Food Sector
The agri-food industry generates more than $30 billion for the Ontario economy, employs 650,000 people and ships $8.4 billion in exports every year.
But agriculture and food is about more than money and jobs. Agri-food contributes greatly to the social, cultural and environmental well-being of Ontario. The people - from farmers to food processors to grocery store retailers - touch the lives of all Ontarians.
Under the leadership of Minister of Agriculture and Food Steve Peters, the McGuinty government has made significant progress over the past year including:
- Commissioning Justice Haines to conduct an independent review of Ontario's meat inspection system. His report indicated Ontario has good system in place and now, the province is making it even better.
- Hiring 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. Most meat inspectors had been public service employees until 1997, when measures by the previous government resulted in contracting out virtually all inspection services.
- Signing the Agricultural Policy Framework - over the five-year life of this federal provincial agreement, together, Canada and Ontario will have invested more than $1.7 billion in Ontario's agri-food sector.
- Delivering much-needed funding to assist the ruminant livestock sector recover from the fallout of the discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The provincial government has committed to provide as much as $138.5 million. When combined with federal funding, as much as $396.5 million could be delivered to Ontario's ruminant livestock sector.
- Introducing 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. The first company in Ontario - T&R Sargent Farms Limited of Milton - was certified under this program in July 2004.
- Establishing 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.
- Establishing the Agricultural Advisory Team to consult with farm interests and others and provide advice in the many land-use initiatives the government is currently undertaking. Based on the team's advice, the government is addressing several issues that will strengthen the agri-food sector and further a commitment to better managing growth and preserving greenspace.
- Delivering $20 million under the Nutrient Management Financial Assistance Program to assist approximately 1,200 existing large livestock operations to better protect the environment and comply with regulations under the Nutrient Management Act. These operations must be in compliance with the act by December 31, 2005.
- Exempting 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 them hard-earned dollars.
- Investing $2.5 million in a rural development centre at Ridgetown to help Ontario's agri-food sector become more competitive. The facility will offer leading-edge educational and outreach programs, better preparing the next generation to fully participate in an innovative agri-food industry. Through training and technology transfer for the surrounding community, the centre will also encourage new agricultural-based initiatives that could create new market opportunities for locally grown products.
- Signing off on a federal-Ontario emergency response plan against foreign animal disease that will better safeguard the health of the province's livestock and citizens.
- Upgrading or replacing aging infrastructure at 18 agricultural facilities across the province to ensure the agri-food sector retains its competitive edge - a $4.6-million investment.
- Addressing 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 the next three years in business risk management programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework and up to $16 million in interim payments for BSE repositioning as part of the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program.
- Partnering 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 operations as well as to sell surplus electricity on the market.
- Requiring that gasoline sold in Ontario contain an average of five per cent ethanol by 2007. This would be equivalent to taking 200,000 vehicles off the road or reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 800,000 tonnes. It has the potential to spark 3,000 new jobs and as much as $500 million in new investment in rural Ontario.
- Providing a total of $94 million under the Market Revenue Insurance program to grain and oilseed producers for both 2003 and 2004. AGRICORP will deliver final payments for the 2003 crop year to participating producers in 2005.