President's MessageOntario Agri Business Association
by Cassandra Loomans
The profile of the agriculture and agri-food sector is on the rise in Ontario, and 2018 brings no shortage of opportunities for OABA. With changes to the market, members are seeing continued investment, efficiencies, and market opportunities in our businesses. It is due to the continued support from the OABA membership, and the hard work of association volunteers that our voice continues to be heard where it matters, and for that, I thank you.
While we continue to promote our industry sector, we must also work with various internal and external stakeholders on the challenges we face together. Already in Q1 of 2018 we have seen continued consolidation in the industry, a weakening CDN dollar, interest rate increases, the lowest unemployment rates in over 40 years, and the implications of Bill 148, Ontario's newest labour legislation. The current geopolitical climate creates uncertainties on provincial, national and international levels. Not only do we have uncertainty in the government, the exponential evolution of technology and the ability to service and communicate with our customers continues to change the way we do business. With this change comes opportunity, and OABA can help effect positive change that will allow members to maximize their opportunities and potential.
Government Relations continues to be one of the most fundamental initiatives for OABA. As political parties focus on the urban/suburban electorate in the upcoming Ontario election, OABA encourages members to reach out to their local MPP's in efforts to inform and educate them on agriculture, agri business and rural issues now more than ever. Ontario's political landscape is changing as all parties seem to be redefining and reinventing themselves – it is imperative that agriculture and rural issues are part of this process. The message is simple... with $110 billion of annual GDP, Ontario's agri-food value chain is essential to the long-term success of the province, and as an industry we need to ensure that our voice is being heard by both government and the public.
OABA's Section Committees are collaboratively working on a number of projects and initiatives to address some of the industry's recent challenges. Particular areas of focus for the Grain Section Committee have included a Canadian Grain Commission proposal on expanding the number of wheat classes, managing the presence of vomitoxin in Ontario corn, and the ongoing issue of 'treated seed' in farmer deliveries of commercial grain. The Feed Section Committee continues its work with ANAC in addressing the modernization of the Feeds Act & Regulations, upcoming changes to regulations under Ontario's Livestock Medicines Act, as well as taking steps to strengthen the relationship between the Ontario feed industry and the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. The Crop Inputs Section Committee is continuing its work with Fertilizer Canada and OMAFRA in the development and implementation of a voluntary 4R Ag Retailer Certification Program that will formally bring 4R Nutrient Stewardship to Ontario and demonstrate leadership from the ag sector in efforts to minimize nutrient losses from Ontario farmland. The Crop Inputs Section Committee has also been working with Fertilizer Canada on the need for updated liquid fertilizer storage standards, as well as participating on the Ammonium Nitrate working group to develop a code of practice for the new CAN regulations.
Health and Safety continues to be a high priority for the OABA membership. With Fred Spiro announcing his retirement at the end of 2017, OABA has changed the delivery model for safety training to an external service provider based model. ACUTE Safety Training from Waterloo was chosen as the service provider that could deliver cost effective and quality training to the OABA membership. In addition to on-site training at OABA member business locations, ACUTE also has a training facility in Waterloo that provides an effective link between classroom theory and hands-on practical training. In addition to the training component, ACUTE will also be an active contributor to OABA's Health and Safety Committee and Agri Business Safety Network meetings.
OABA has continued its work on the Environmental Compliance Project, and is working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to streamline the process of obtaining environmental approvals. Recently, OABA has made the request to initiate discussions with MOECC staff to move toward the development of technical standards for air emissions. Moving forward, the committee will also be looking at how we can work with MOECC on addressing noise related issues and approvals.
During the past year, OABA financially supported Farm & Food Care in the publication of "The Real Dirt on Farming", a proactive communication tool that targets the public with facts and credible information on modern day agriculture. OABA also supports AgScape, an organization which provides teachers with tools and resources to incorporate agriculture into Ontario's school curriculum. Both programs support agricultural education/ information and effectively link the school classroom and the public domain.
Human Resources are also a key element for OABA members. The implementation of Bill 148, Ontario's newest set of labour laws, has significantly changed the way HR handles employee wages, and a number of issues related to labour standards and labour relations. The upcoming legalization of recreational cannabis will add to a changing environment for business that will require attention. As employers, we need to be abreast of how cannabis legalization will impact all operational aspects of our workplaces. During this time of unprecedented change in HR, OABA maintains a licensing agreement with TwoGreySuits™, a service that provides access to professional human resources services on a 24/7 basis at no additional cost to OABA members.
OABA is a strong leadership organization that effectively represents and advances the interests of our membership to other industry stakeholders including government, producer groups and consumers. OABA is extremely fortunate to have passionate volunteers and staff that support this commitment to the crop input, grain and feed sectors. It is through the effective combination of volunteer expertise on the Board of Directors and the Crop Inputs, Feed, and Grain Section Committees, along with our knowledgeable and committed staff of Joanne, Tracey, Ron and Dave, that this is possible.
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 2018.