OFA Commentary #0409
Moving forward with the new structure
By Wendy Omvlee, Ontario Federation of Agriculture Executive Committee
Now that the key elements of the restructured Ontario Federation of Agriculture are in place, we have to focus on making it work effectively for our members.
The 18-member Board of Directors has met twice now and all indications are the members are anxious to get the job done – exploring the issues facing agriculture and developing policies to take to governments as recommended solutions.
OFA’s Policy Advisory Council (PAC) just had its first meeting with 100 members from all areas of the province bringing issues and concerns for discussion and recommendations. This is an entirely new way for OFA to conduct its business, and improvements will be continuous.
As planning was going on for the new structure, consultations with members made it clear that effective communications between the grassroots members, the County Federations, the Policy Advisory Council the Board and staff were critical. To ensure this focus isn’t lost, Communications Protocols were developed and will form the basis of how all levels of OFA must communicate into the future.
During the early stages of the new OFA structure, the value and importance of open and clear communications between all levels have been recorded.
Board members will attend PAC meetings to observe the discussions and make notes.
Policy Advisory Council members will attend county federation and regional meetings, gaining a clear understanding of the local issues and concerns relating to individual commodities. This will be essential as they work to understand the details of the issues and gain thoughts of potential solutions.
Although a major portion of the PAC’s inaugural meeting was spent getting to know each other and how they want to operate, there will be time on the agendas of future meetings to deal with current and emerging issues.
To be sure all elements of the new OFA structure know and understand what is taking place in Ontario agriculture and how it will impact every partner down to the local level, reports from the county federations, the PAC and the Board will be exchanged.
We’re told that not all counties are fully comfortable yet with the new structure, expressing the concern that Directors may not attend all local meetings. The communications protocol points to the use of modern communications equipment including web conferencing as means to overcome such concerns and ensure effective communications.
OFA intends to take every measure possible to ensure county federations and grassroots members receive regular reports from all levels of the new OFA structure. We know that such comprehensive communications will be essential for OFA to understand all the complexities from the local and commodity concerns. We will need these details to be able to present an effective message to all levels of governments when a lobby has to happen.
OFA will be consulting with county federation officials to have a clear understanding of what events are essential for an OFA director to attend in person. We are looking at an expanded program of regional summit meetings to bring a number of counties together for full discussions of local and regional matters. From previous regional summit meetings, we know how valuable they can be for fostering more complete discussions.
There are obvious challenges ahead, but OFA is committed to working with all levels to ensure success for Ontario farmers.