Queen’s Park ON – Ontario’s family farms can now count on stable financial support to weather unpredictable times so Ontarians can keep enjoying healthy, locally grown food.
Premier Dalton McGuinty highlighted Ontario’s new risk management programs and thanked farmers for their creativity and innovation today at the annual Summit on Agri-Food.
Ontarians are eating more of the healthy food grown by Ontario farmers, processed in the province and sold by local retailers. When the province’s family farms thrive, Ontarians taste it at the dinner table.
Risk management programs support farmers when prices for their products fluctuate due to unpredictable factors such as weather and global market changes. The province will introduce new risk management programs for cattle, hog and sheep farmers and will be making the risk management program for grain and oilseed farmers permanent.
A separate Self-Directed Risk Management program for fruit and vegetable famers is also being set up.
The Premier also presented one of the two top awards for Agri-food Innovation Excellence.
§ Paul and Rosie Hill of Willowgrove Hill received the Premier’s Award for producing DHA Omega-3 enriched pork. They are the first pork producers in North America to do this.
§ Arie and Lisa Duizer of Duizer Farms received the Minister’s Award for the innovative design of their robotic dairy barn.
Fifty-five other winners will be awarded for their work at regional ceremonies later this spring.
“Farmers have always been there for Ontario, so we need to be there for farmers. That’s why we’ve made the single biggest commitment to the family farm in 30 years. The new risk management programs will help our farmers and their families stay strong.”
— Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Premier McGuinty’s remarks from the 2011 Summit on Agri-food.
Thank you so much, Carol (Mitchell), on a couple of counts, both for your very kind and generous introduction, and for the great job that you keep doing on behalf of so many who have come to count on you just as I have.
Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, a little something about the pride of Clinton, Ontario: Minister Carol Mitchell. She cares about the family farm and wants to see Ontario farmers succeed. She cares about our small towns and wants to see them busy, vibrant and successful. And she cares about and understands the big picture. She knows that we need every link in the agri-food chain — from farmers to processors to retailers — to be strong.
And so does her parliamentary assistant, our colleague, Maria Van Bommel. Just to show you what a strong team that we have in place when it comes to representing your concerns, meeting your challenges and rising to your opportunities.
Maria is no slouch either when it comes to agricultural issues. She serves as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture Member Services Representative for Lambton and Middlesex Counties. She was a founding member of the Middlesex’s Women for the Support of Agriculture, the Ontario Farm Womens’ Network and the Canadian Farmwomen’s Network. She served as a director of the Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, provincial director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and in her spare time, she and her husband operate a poultry farm near Strathroy.
Thank you, Carol and Maria for the great work that you are doing on behalf of so many.
Now, before I begin in earnest, I just want to tell you a little something about a visit I made last week to Battle Creek, Michigan. It happens to be the world headquarters of Kellogg. I went there to finalize a great, new investment that they are making in Ontario. Just a few years ago we partnered with them to land a $100 million cereal manufacturing plant in Belleville. Do you know what the draw is for a giant company like Kellogg in Ontario? I mean, they are in 183 countries.
I can tell you a big part of that draw is the quality of our wheat. Their Mini-Wheats are made in Ontario for Canada and the US. Now they’re investing another $43 million to expand their plant in Belleville. And they’re going to produce another 30 million pounds of cereal there, every year. So not only are they providing more jobs at the plant, they’re providing more opportunities for our farmers. And it’s my pleasure to share that particular good news with you today.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends, thanks so much for being here this morning. Welcome to our seventh summit on Agri-Food. It is a busy time out there, not just in our own lives, but in all the important news we are getting these days from around the world and indeed on the federal campaign trail right here in Canada.
I want to begin by thanking all of you for your time today and for all you do for Ontario farms, every day. Not just through the organizations you represent, but through the example that you set. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I had nine brothers and sisters, so you could say I know my way around a herd. And, in our family, you learned the value of hard work pretty early on.
I wish I could tell you that we kids never complained or never fought amongst ourselves, but I can’t. But I will tell you this: we were always inspired by my mom and dad’s good example. And when I talk to Ontario farmers that’s what I see: good people, setting a good example, for the next generation of farmers.
Ontario farmers are some of the most passionate people you’re ever going to meet. The other day I was giving a presentation in Stratford. At the end, I asked if there were any questions. Before you could say “Massey Ferguson” a farmer literally jumped up in the front row. I love that. I love that passion that comes from a commitment to your work. It comes from farm families, working together, year after year, through good times and bad, day in, day out, so that when a mom in downtown Toronto, for example, puts food in her shopping cart, it’s fresh, it’s safe and it’s nutritious. That’s this wonderful bargain that we’ve had going on here in Ontario for over a century now.
There’s a lot of debate these days about what good, healthy food is. For me, the answer is simple. It’s good food grown by Ontario families, for Ontario families, which is why, the way I see it, farmers have always been there for Ontario, so we need to be there for farmers. And that’s why, as Carol just mentioned, in our budget, we made the single biggest commitment to the family farm in 30 years. We introduced a risk management program for our farmers. That’s something our farmers asked for and we delivered, working together.
We are asking the federal government to join us at the table on this particular initiative because it’s important. It’s important because now, when commodity prices swing — and they always do – Ontario farms will be protected. It means when you need a loan to improve your business, the banks will know we’ve got your back.
But this is more than just great news for the family farm. It’s great news for rural Ontario because strong family farms are the backbone of a strong rural economy, strong rural education and strong rural health care. And as you and I look with hope to the future, strong family farms mean that the next generation of kids growing up on farms will take a serious look at the industry and have the confidence to stick with it because that’s what we need most of all right now.
I think that if you want to keep the farming sector strong over the long haul, you need new people, new talent, new ideas. So risk management is a big step. But we’ve got more to do ahead of us. Risk management is also important to the strong future of our food processing sector. The folks who process foods – commercial bakers and butchers, for example – are about the same age as our farmers. So there’s a tremendous opportunity coming up for young people looking to get into a rewarding career.
I’m told that Conestoga College – and we had a representative here today – is the first place of its kind in North America to offer a diploma for food processing technicians. Maybe there’s an opportunity to expand that program, not just to other colleges, but to high schools through our high-skills major program. Kids are flocking to these kinds of programs because they give them hands-on experience. Together we can get kids interested in those careers when they’re young and point them in the right direction.
Another opportunity is improving on our success with the Foodland brand. And what a success it has been for all of us. Because of our combined efforts, 92 percent of Ontarians recognize the Foodland brand. They trust it. I don’t have to tell you, consumers are getting smarter about their food choices and more demanding about what they choose to feed their families. And that’s great news because nobody does a better job of meeting those needs than we do here in Ontario through Ontario farmers. When a challenge arises, you rise to meet it. But that’s just who we are as Ontarians.
We’ve just been through a pretty tough time as a province. That global recession hit us pretty hard. It could have been worse, but for Ontarians themselves. Together, we fought back. And even though we’re now turning the corner, Ontarians remain a bit anxious, a bit uncertain about what the future holds and that’s understandable. But here’s something else we should understand about ourselves: we’re resilient and resourceful. We always find a way forward.
I read that in the early 1800s when Ontarians travelled our province they would carry their own axes with them, just in case a tree had fallen across the way or a bridge had washed out and they needed to clear a new path or build a new bridge. You should understand, we’re still like that. On a lot of farms we’re still literally like that, though these days the universal tool is more likely duct tape.
Ontarians see past the obstacles of our present to the possibilities of our future. We’re builders, always with tools at the ready. And if there’s been one single, powerful, noble ideal that has inspired every single generation of Ontarians, it is this: we will do whatever it takes to secure a bright future for our children and our grandchildren. That’s what our government is doing in education, in health care, in infrastructure, in electricity, in taxes, and right on the family farm.
We’re building that bright future together right now. It’s just not in our nature to stop or turn back; that’s not who we are. We are Ontarians. Let’s honour that heritage. Let’s keep finding a way forward. Let’s keep making progress for ourselves and our children.
One of our award winners today was inspired to do just that, by the way, and you’ll hear their story in a moment. The truth is we can give our kids the best possible education right now; we can give them quality health care, and clean air to breathe, and strong rural communities with a strong heart — the family farm.
We can build a strong Ontario economy with exciting new jobs for a new generation of workers. We can do all that right now. That bright future is within our grasp. All it takes from us is what our parents did for us. All we need is an unwavering faith in ourselves, an unconditional love for our families, and an unrelenting effort to build something better.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.