Praise for economic development plan
OFA Commentary #3409
Praise for economic development plan
By Don McCabe, Vice-President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
After a year of serious economic hardship in Southern Ontario, it was good news to hear Prime Minister Harper announce plans recently for the area’s own development agency. With a budget of a billion dollars to be spent over five years, we’re looking forward to major infrastructure development as a result of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
MP Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, has been put in charge of the new agency. From his Cambridge riding and the agency office in Kitchener, we expect he will have a good understanding of where agriculture can contribute to sustainable economic development for the area.
Prime Minister Harper, in making the announcement, said he expects to see as little of the one billion dollars as possible used on bureaucracy – leaving the bulk of the money for programming. We definitely support that approach.
Acknowledging the loss of more than 200,000 jobs in Southern Ontario in recent months, Prime Minister Harper wants to see MP Goodyear and his agency at work turning things around in Southern Ontario.
The good news is that we know investment in agriculture and agriculture infrastructure pays dividends. Such investment will certainly help turn around our rural and provincial economy.
The plan calls for the investment of millions of dollars through a variety of programs, most of them already existing, for research. Agriculture looks forward to working with Minister Goodyear and his agency to explore opportunities for farmers and others in the agri-food sector. We want to use every opportunity possible to create more optimism for success in agriculture.
Using production efficiencies created through research, agriculture has reached the stage where society counts on farmers for a lot more than just food. Society looks to modern agriculture for a reduction in its reliance on fossil fuels and a reduction in greenhouse gases.
Increased production capabilities now permit farmers to produce food and feed well beyond their own needs. An increasing amount of output from today’s farm is being used to produce energy, both transportation fuels and electricity. Again, research has brought agriculture to these capabilities. It is now imperative for us to capitalize on the possibilities using this new agency.
Agriculture is also showing increased abilities in the production of industrial feed stocks for everything from starches to oils and fibre. Making use of the abilities and imagination of research workers, we’re confident the horizons for agriculture will reach even greater levels for service to society.
A recent report from Ontario Agri-Food Technologies discusses a number of areas where agriculture’s capabilities for growth and contribution to modern society are unlimited. A major limiting factor, according to that report, is investment capital.
The federal government’s economic development agency for Southern Ontario is a likely source for some of the needed investment capital.
The agency announcement by the Prime Minister tells us the Business Development Bank of Canada will invest a total of $50 million through venture capital firms and its own programs. As well, the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program has close to $100 million to foster innovation among Southern Ontario’s small and medium-sized enterprises and supporting organizations.
The OFA will continue to work with our industry partners to explore and develop the true potential of the funding announced by the Prime Minister to help agriculture advance its capabilities for meeting society’s needs and the needs of our Ontario farm businesses.
Posted on 24 Aug 2009