by SUSAN MANN
Water management, conservation and drought-resistant crop research are some of the ways Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin would like to spend money set aside for innovation and market development in the new Growing Forward 2 agreement.
We might think we’re a petroleum-based economy but there are lots of alternatives to petroleum, the minister notes. There is, however, “no alternative to water,” he says.
“If we can get on top of water management, conservation, drought-resistant crops then I think we can position ourselves in the global economy very, very well.” He adds that soil enhancement work in the province should also continue. He made the comments Monday as he outlined his message to Ontario farmers about the new five-year Growing Forward policy framework agreement the federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers reached during their annual meeting last week in Whitehorse, Yukon. Set to begin next year after the current agreement expires March 31, 2013, the agreement contains investments of more than $3 billion over five years across Canada into innovation, competitiveness and market development. The agreement includes a 50 per cent increase in government cost share initiatives.
The minister says he’d like to set up an agri-food sector innovation group to monitor what’s happening in Ontario and provide an opportunity for industry players to work together to establish some fresh thinking on strategic investments, innovation and market development. The group would include representatives from the entire value chain, including farm group leaders, academics, the provincial agriculture ministry and people interested in innovation.
“You need to ensure the innovation and research that you’re doing is actually contributing to growing the economic sector and it’s not just stuff that’s going to be done and put on a shelf somewhere,” he notes.
About the business risk management programs, McMeekin says the new agreement still contains an effective suite of programs. “We tried to find a balance between protecting those programs that farmers rely on and defending the integrity of operations in Ontario.” BF