President's MessageOntario Agri Business Association
by Darcy Oliphant
Here we are in 2016!
From the election of a majority Liberal government in Ottawa... to industry efforts to implement flawed provincial regulations to protect pollinators... to the introduction of a cap and trade program to fight climate change... to a weaker Canadian dollar, lower oil prices and even lower interest rates... to the unpredictable pre-election environment in the United States, I am sure that the coming year will shape up as one filled with unprecedented changes, challenges and a few surprises for the Agri Business sector. It is during these ever changing and challenging times that the role of our association is more important than ever, and I sincerely thank the members for their continued support of the Ontario Agri Business Association.
In the area of Government Relations, we continue to establish and build relationships with all levels of government. In the fall of 2015, Canada's political environment changed significantly with the election of a majority Liberal government in Ottawa. It is essential that we work closely with our nationally affiliated organizations in representing the interests of the crop input, grain and feed industry from across the country. OABA is continuing to work toward positioning itself as the key organization that provides strong leadership to both the agriculture and rural sectors, both provincially and federally. As part of OABA's government relations activities, it is important that all members become politically active and reach out to your local MPP and MP to educate and inform them on the Agri Business sector.
While the traditional focus of many Agri-Food organizations has been on government relations and communication with MPP's and MP's, there continues to be evolving interest in the need to develop a broader public communications strategy. Both federally and provincially, majority governments were elected by an urban-based electorate, and it is essential that we communicate effectively with this important segment of the population. There is a strong linkage between urban centres and Queen's Park and Parliament Hill - for the first time in over 18 years, the Canadian Prime Minister made an official visit to the City of Toronto in mid-January. The political power of the urban segment of the population is unprecedented. At the same time, Ontario's population is getting further and further from the farm and the general public simply does not understand modern agriculture. It is agriculture's collective responsibility to get the word out!
A key link to any Agri-Food awareness and public outreach initiative needs to happen within our public education system. In September of 2015, the OABA board made the decision to contribute $8,000 to The Teacher Ambassador Program™, a flagship program, of Ontario Agri Food Education that delivers straight forward, agricultural lessons directly into high school classrooms. This OABA financial contribution will support the development of an e-learning module on "Technology & Innovation", within a new program called "The Business of Food". This will be a 25 module e-learning course in Agri-Food literacy. We encourage OABA members to step up and support this important OAFE initiative to educate and inform the consumers of tomorrow. Another key to the public outreach initiative is public awareness through Farm & Food Care. Recently, the President's Council initiated a project through Farm & Food Care in that will develop an education outreach strategy targeting elected officials, government staff, as well as food retail and foodservice executives. The project will focus on strategy development, tactics, key messages and training for spokespeople.
A major initiative of the Association for the coming year will be an updating of the Economic Impact Analysis of Ontario's crop input, grain elevator and feed manufacturing sector originally conducted by MNP LLP in 2013. This updated report will continue to serve as an excellent tool for OABA members to demonstrate to government the very significant and positive contributions that the crop input, grain and feed sector makes to Ontario's economy. Watch for this updated report in the fall of 2016.
OABA continues to work on our Environmental Compliance Project with the focus of streamlining the process of obtaining environmental approvals for facilities in the crop input, grain and feed sectors. This has been a slow process, however, there are positive signs that we are making some headway in our discussions with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Over the coming months, it is hoped that OABA's steering committee will be finalizing a series of proposals with MOECC with the objective of bringing this issue to successful conclusion for the OABA membership. Also in the area of environmental sustainability, OABA is partnering with Fertilizer Canada and other key stakeholders with the development and implementation of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program in Ontario.
The Association continues to place a high priority on workplace health and safety, and OABA's Agri Business Safety Network continues to grow in size and adds considerable value to participating firms. In addition to general health and safety activities, Fred Spiro, OABA's Health & Safety Specialist is also available to member firms of OABA on a fee-for-service basis to conduct training, audits, inspections and consulting in this essential area of operations.
A cornerstone activity of OABA is to develop and deliver products, programs and services for members that 'add value' to Agri Business firms operating in the crop input, grain and feed sectors. In this area, the Association has 'stepped up' activities in the area of 'Human Resources' through the delivery of Lead Hand Training for the membership. As part of added value in the area of member operations, the OABA board made the decision to provide access to TwoGreySuits™ as an inclusion of membership in the Association. This board decision provides ALL members with access to professional human resources services on a 24/7 basis at no additional cost. A great return on investment for your membership in OABA!
I would like to thank the committee volunteers and OABA staff for their commitment to both the Association and the advancement of Ontario's Agri Business sector. The effective combination of volunteer expertise on the Board of Directors, Crop Inputs, Feed, and Grain Section Committees, along with a dedicated and professional staff consisting of Joanne, Tracey, Fred, Ron and Dave, positions OABA as a strong leadership organization that effectively represents and advances the interests of our membership to other industry stakeholders including government, producer groups and consumers.
In closing, I would like to thank the Board of Directors and the membership for the honour and opportunity to serve as President of the Ontario Agri Business Association, and wish all members continued success throughout 2016.