President's MessageOntario Agri Business Association
by Dave Bender
Here we are in 2017! From the evolving political and economic uncertainty surrounding the Trump presidency in the United States... to a continued weak Canadian dollar... to exponential increases in the price of electricity in Ontario... to the modernization of the Feeds Act... to the need for a unified approach to address agricultural sources of phosphorus entering the Great Lakes... to the introduction of Cap and Trade in Ontario... 2017 is certainly shaping up to be another year filled with unprecedented changes, challenges and opportunities for the agri business sector. It is during these 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 develop relationships with MPP's and senior government staff. With the target of an Ontario provincial election in the spring of 2018, the agri-food sector needs to "up its game" and engage in meaningful discussion with all parties on what is important to agricultural and rural interests across the province. OABA continues to work toward positioning itself as a key organization that provides leadership to both agriculture and rural sectors as we lead up to the next provincial election. As part of OABA's government relations activities, it is essential that members become politically active and reach out to your local MPP to educate and inform them on the agri business sector and the issues that impact the agriculture and rural sectors.
During the fall of 2016, OABA completed an update to the Economic Impact Analysis of Ontario's crop input, grain elevator and feed manufacturing sector that was originally conducted in 2013. This update report provides an excellent tool for OABA members to better understand the very significant and positive contributions the sector makes to Ontario's economy. Some of the economic data highlights from our 2016 update study indicate the following:
- Direct economic output generated by Ontario's crop input suppliers, feed manufacturers and grain elevators is estimated to be $4.08 billion - up from $2.89 billion reported in the 2013 study.
- Direct GDP generated by the sector is estimated to be $1.66 billion - up from $1.16 billion reported in the 2013 study.
- Direct employment in the sector is 8,346 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees with an annual payroll of $414 million - up from 7,637 FTE employees and annual payroll of $360 million reported in the 2013 study.
- The sector generated $333 million in direct tax revenue to federal, provincial and municipal governments - up from $233 million reported in the 2013 study.
With an increased focus on the need for agriculture to effectively communicate with changing population demographics, OABA is a key supporter of a Presidents' Council training initiative being delivered through Farm & Food Care. This training program focuses on how to communicate about food and farming and connect with shared values. In the first phase of this strategic pilot project, approximately 30 representatives from across Ontario's agricultural sector participated in an ENGAGE training session in the fall of 2016 to develop communication skills that can be used to effectively target key influencers in government and the food industry. Watch for more information on delivery of this external communications program in the coming months.
Another key component of agri-food awareness and public outreach needs to happen within our public education system. Over the past year, AgScape (formerly Ontario Agri-Food Education) has continued development of The Teacher Ambassador Program™, a flagship program that delivers straight forward, agricultural lessons directly into high school classrooms. With total financial contributions of $16,000 from OABA, and $24,000 from TFIO Foundation to the Business of Food program, agri business is taking a leadership position in this important AgScape initiative to educate and inform the consumers of tomorrow.
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. While the process is not moving as quickly as expected, we continue to be engaged in constructive discussions with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). Over the coming months, it is hoped that OABA's steering committee will be finalizing a series of proposals with MOECC that will bring this issue to successful conclusion for the OABA membership.
The Association continues to place a high priority on workplace health and safety. 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. It is important that "Safety First" is our primary goal in everything we do.
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 continues to be active in the area of Human Resources through the development and delivery of Lead Hand Training for the membership. As part of added value in the area of member operations, OABA maintains a licensing agreement with TwoGreySuits™ that provides all members with access to professional human resources services on a 24/7 basis for no additional cost. During the coming months, the 2017 edition of OABA's bi-annual Employment & Compensation Benchmarking Survey will also be conducted. These activities provide an excellent return on investment for the OABA membership.
I would like to thank the volunteers and 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 2017.