The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) outlined the key priorities for the Ontario fruit and vegetable sector in their response to an invitation from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to attend the July 10th stakeholder meeting and to help the minister prepare for the 2019 Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture Annual Conference.
In the response, the OFVGA makes recommendations in relation to financial protection of produce sellers, labour, crop protection, business risk management, the use of plastics and trade. All important areas that need to be discussed when looking toward the future of horticulture in the area.
In regards to financial protection the OFVGA advises the Minister to implement federal enabling legislation to provide Canadian fruit and vegetable farmers with financial protection against insolvent buyers. The legislation would create assurance for Canadian fruit and vegetable farmers by giving them priority access to the buyer’s cash, inventory and accounts receivable from an insolvent produce buyer to help offset losses associated with product delivered but not paid for.
In regards to labor the OFVGA focuses specifically on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the recent changes that have added red tape, cost, and stress for farmers. They suggest that these recent changes should be reviewed, and modifications should be considered where appropriate to reduce undue burden on farmers.
When speaking of crop protection it was suggested that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada must conduct a reevaluation of each registered crop protection product every 15 years. Besides this the OFVGA recommends that PMRA and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) must work more closely to address gaps in product use data and technical understanding of
how crop protection products are used by farmers. Secondly, a national water monitoring group must be established at Environment & Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to oversee the monitoring of pest control products in the environment.
When addressing business risk management the OFVGA states that a fundamental change to the approach to the BRM Program suite is necessary. They offer a few recommendations to improve safety nets policies for Ontario and Canada, including:
- An immediate increase in the AgriStability margin coverage to 85%, immediate removal of the AgriStability Reference Margin Limit (RML).
- Implementing the most promising recommendations made by National Producer Advisory Committee (NPAC) to improve AgriStability.
- FPT governments should immediately examine options for enhancing access to production insurance for those sectors that have inadequate or no coverage.
- Improve the Advanced Payment Program (APP) by applying the recent new rules for canola growers to other crops such as fruit and vegetables.
When talking about reducing plastics used in packaging the OFVGA states that the sector is looking to work with government to reduce barriers to accessing effective recycling and composting solutions, whether they be at the individual or municipal level.
And finally, in regards to trade the OFVGA addresses the current instability in Canada's historical trading partners, they recommend that the federal government, with support of the provinces, put resources towards market diversification to new export markets, and ensure that existing export markets remain open and viable for Ontario farmers.
Read the full response here.