President's MessageOntario Agri Business Association
Looking back over the past year, and the changes that the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought to both our personal and organizational lives, it seems unfathomable. As I write this President’s Message in mid-March 2021, the world has adapted to the “new normal”; we are beginning to see widespread vaccinations as a reality, and while most people will express their worries, there is also hope and optimism for the future. As your trade association representing those operating in the Crop Inputs, Grain Elevator and Feed Sectors, I believe that we have responded as well as any industry sector to the challenges of the past year – lockdowns, continuing operations while keeping our teams safe, physical distancing, work from home requirements, production cut backs in many of the major agricultural protein sectors, soaring commodity prices and supply chain interruptions. Having previous experience in managing through animal disease and bio-security situations may have prepared us to adapt better than most. Many of the changes and challenges which COVID-19 has brought, will remain with us and will continue to impact our business operations into the future.
As an organization, over the past few months, we have had a significant change in leadership with the retirement of Dave Buttenham, who was not only the OABA CEO, but also a trusted industry leader and spokesperson. We wish Dave, Sandra and their family happiness in their retirement, and sincerely thank Dave for his 36+ years of service and leadership to our Association and our industry.
Russel Hurst joined OABA as the Executive Director in late 2020, and has spent his first few months deepening his understanding of the issues for our membership, and building relationships with our professional and experienced staff team and key stakeholders. Russel and your Board of Directors will be working diligently in the coming months on forward looking strategic planning for the organization which incorporates many of the key insights Russel has gained during his first several months in the role. We welcome Russel to our team and look forward to a smooth transition in leadership along with the fresh perspectives he brings with a laser focus on OABA being a strong and impactful association into the future.
Establishing and building relationships with all levels of government is a key priority for OABA. The agri-business sector is a powerhouse within both the provincial and national economy. Ensuring effective, consistent and practical policies and regulations are imperative to sector prosperity. We recognized throughout the pandemic how we can positively impact decision making to ensure that both provincial and federal governments are fully aware of agri-business positions on key issues and to lobby government decision makers to ensure that policy decisions are in the best interests of both the agri-business community and the broader agri-food sector.
Moving forward our goal is to continue to engage with both traditional and non-traditional government departments and agencies to ensure that OABA is positioned as a thought leader representing the interests of the agri-business sector on key issues such as carbon taxation, environmental compliance, safety, education, transportation and trade. A key aspect of government relations is that members are politically active. Reach out to your local MPP and MP, educate and inform them on the agri-business sector, the essential services we provide, and show them that the issues impacting your business are vital to Ontario’s growth and prosperity.
2021 marks the ninth year of OABA’s Environmental Compliance Project, which started as a collaborative initiative with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). The objective of this project is to develop an approval process that would permit agri-business facilities to meet Ontario’s compliance standards for dust, odour and noise in a more predictable and cost-effective manner. I am pleased to report that we are exercising some fresh approaches to this work and are confident that we will see forward progress in the near-term.
A cornerstone activity of OABA is to develop and deliver products, programs and services for members that ‘add value’ to agri-business firms and help our members show leadership while operating in the crop input, grain and feed sectors. In this area, OABA continues to deliver lead-hand training, grain grading workshops and an updated mentorship program. As part of our programming during the pandemic, OABA also launched the “Stay Connected, Stay Informed” webinar series that will continue throughout 2021. OABA continues to partner with TwoGreySuits™ to provide all members with access to professional human resources services on a 24/7 basis for no additional cost. Additionally, OABA continues to partner with ACUTE Environmental & Safety Services to provide the membership with access to full-day and half-day training opportunities at the ACUTE training facility in Waterloo, as well as on-site training at member locations. Member feedback on these partnerships has been excellent, and we look forward to continuing and exploring additional value-added partnerships in the coming years.
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 continues to position OABA as the lead organization that effectively represents and advances the interests of our membership to 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 2021.