President's MessageOntario Agri Business Association
It is my pleasure to provide you with my President’s message. As a society I feel we are now learning to live with evolving policies, procedures and supply chain disruptions resulting from both the pandemic and global conflicts. It has impacted our personal lives, our members and their business operations; and your Association, as we have all continued to adopt to this ever- changing world. It is during these challenges that I’m reminded of the value that OABA brings to our industry by providing timely updates that have included disease outbreaks, supply chain disruptions, human resource scarcity, increasing interest rates, access to adequate transportation, and geo-political events that have impacted our commodity markets. Additionally, we continued to navigate COVID-19 through a third year, we should be proud of the resiliency we displayed both individually and as an Association.
OABA has a long history of representing the interests of our diverse membership who operate in the crop inputs, grain elevator and feed sectors. This past year was no exception with our Board and Section Committees proactively addressing various strategic priorities, as well as addressing issues as they are encountered.
In the previous year the Board of Directors and staff completed a comprehensive strategic planning process. The outcome of this process was the conformation of five key strategic priorities for the Association. These include a) member engagement, b) stakeholders’ relationships, c) safety, training, education and leadership, d) advocacy and government relations, and e) organizational excellence. As we transition through 2023 and beyond, OABA will look to build our organizational activities and allocate resources to delivery on these priorities on behalf of our membership.
In the areas of government relations, OABA continues to build and foster relationships with key elected officials and senior bureaucrats at both the provincial and federal levels to effectively represent members’ collective interests. Key files this past year have included a number of federal regulatory consultations that included the emission reduction mandate, CFIA regulatory modernization, and the Clean Fuel Standard. Engagement at the provincial level included various budget consultations, advocating for supply chain resiliency, and provincial agri-food sector labour strategy. We envision 2023 will be an even busier year on the government relations front with the upcoming Canadian sustainable agriculture partnership and federal emission reduction mandate strategies further progressing. In addition, private member’s bill C-234 transiting through the parliamentary process, as well as both federal and provincial governments transitioning back to various legislation that was delayed due to the pandemic. A renewed focus on post pandemic economic recovery will look to showcase our recently completed economic impact assessment.
In the areas of stakeholder and member relations, OABA continued to build strong relationships with allied industry associations within the agri-food landscape, as well as various grower associations. During the past year, highlights included a number of communication collaborations with Grain Farmers of Ontario, Soy Canada, Ontario Bean Growers, Ontario Canola Growers, Ontario Federation of Agriculture and Seeds Canada. These joint communications included industry aligned guidance to members on the review of pre-commercialization technologies to ensure continued global market access and raising awareness on the impacts of the 35% fertilizer tariff on Ontario agriculture and seeking to have the tariff removed. These collaborative efforts were undertaken to ensure our sector is aligned in our collective interests to both government and the value chain. Additional support was provided to Farm and Food Care Ontario’s “Garden in a Box” program and a continued organizational focus on promoting and increasing the adoption of 4R nutrient stewardship programing beyond our 2022 end of year stats that included 29 certified ag-retail sites who positively influenced over 950,000 acres.
A core area of focus for OABA has been the delivery of health, safety and leadership programming to our membership. Our staff team has transitioned the majority of our training programs back to in-person events. We have re-established the OABA Agri Business Safety Network and Human Resource Committee after a period of hiatus, and offered a full suite of lead-hand as well as grain grading courses throughout the province to ensure OABA members have the training and education they need to run both profitable and safe businesses. We completed a 2022 member employment, benefits and compensation study that allows participating members to confidentially benchmark their current compensation program with industry peers. We also welcomed a new 18 individual cohort of the next generation of industry leaders into a rebranded 18-month OABA Leadership Program. OABA has continued to partner with ACUTE Environmental and Safety Services Inc. to provide OABA members with best in class training programs for their staff. These programs are available at your site or at ACUTE’s classroom location for reasonable cost.
Our 2022 Annual Meeting and Convention was held at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale, this past December. It was particularly satisfying to hold a combined in-person and virtual event this year. While prior year event attendance had been impacted by the pandemic, the 2022 event received positive feedback. Based on this year’s attendance, it feels like there was overwhelming preference from the OABA membership to experience an in-person event that includes first class speakers and lots of networking opportunities. I look forward to seeing everybody at our full state of industry golf events over the course of the summer and in Mississauga at our Annual Meeting and Convention scheduled for December 7 & 8, 2023.
I would like to thank the many 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 the dedicated and professional staff of Ron, Tracey, Joanne and Russel continue to position OABA as a strong leadership organization that effectively represents and advances the interest of our vast membership to industry stakeholders including government, producer organizations and the agri-food value chain. It is gratifying to know that government agencies, government ministers and other organizations routinely look to OABA for our collective perspectives and thought leadership, as well as being a key collaborator in driving sector growth and in identifying and effectively implementing solutions to issues as they arise.
In closing, I would like to extend my thanks to the OABA staff, Board of Directors, Section Committees and all OABA members for allowing me the privilege of serving as your President this year, and wish all members continued success throughout 2023 and beyond.