by Betty Bardswich
PROVIDENCE BAY—The Manitoulin-North Shore Ontario Federation of Agriculture (MNSOFA) annual dinner and meeting was held September 28 at the Providence Bay Community Hall. The organization’s president, Alan Emiry of Massey, welcomed members and noted that 80 participants had attended the 2017 meeting.
Mr. Emiry went on to say that 53 students from Guelph University were touring farms on Manitoulin and the North Shore at that time with donations from the provincial group and that members’ fees saw $5,540 returned to the MNSOFA organization.
Mary Scott, a workshop leader with the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), was on hand to tell the participants about new programs for farmers. She has been in that position since 1993. Ms. Scott explained that there are still four years left to apply for funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), a $3 billion enterprise which is a commitment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to support agri-food and agri-products sectors and that the funding is merit-based.
“Don’t start a project until you have been approved,” she said, noting that, “there are some benefits to living in the North as Northern Ontario gets preference.”
Ms. Scott especially emphasized that one may have to have attended a workshop in order to qualify for funding. There are three areas under the partnership, with research and innovation continuing to be the focus. Economic development is one area and Ms. Scott told the members that they have to have taken the growing your farm workshop in the last five years. The environmental stewardship section under the partnership has 14 different topics, and again, an applicant has to have done the environmental workshop in the last five years.
The protection and assurance section of this funding initiative is to reinforce the foundation for public trust through improved assurance in food safety and plant and animal health. Ms. Scott noted again that there is a Northern Ontario preference in line for this funding, but it may be necessary to attend a bio-security workshop before submitting an application.
“We have some workshops for the winter,” Ms. Scott said, and reminded members to read Brian Bell’s articles in The Expositor and his monthly emails to learn about what is happening and what the ongoing research is. Mr. Bell is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) representative for Manitoulin.
Ms. Scott stressed that members always go online to check for opportunities as some categories may be open and some may not and to go online early to apply for funding.
Neil Tarlton, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) service representative also spoke at the meeting and talked of the work done by the organization’s research team with an output of 80 submissions to the provincial government this year. Other topics outlined included building codes, waste plastic with an emphasis on everyone recycling and rabies vaccinations. Mr. Emiry spoke of the rabies subject issued by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
“The policy,” he stated, “said that all livestock should be immunized unless if the only contact is the owner.”
The immunization, if needed, has to be issued by a veterinarian but shipping is okay and 4H animals do not have to be vaccinated against rabies. There was also information about compensation for damage by predators with interchanges taking place with the government as well as MPPs.
The Ministry of Agriculture has acknowledged that predator compensation has been an issue which is a step in the right direction as many claims have been denied over technicalities.
It was also reported that economic studies that were started 13 or 14 years ago have been completed and show that the economic impact of agriculture is a lot more than was thought with a 12 percent increase in farm sales showing $196 million in 2016.
Talk at this meeting also turned to the upcoming elections. From the Field is an OFA quarterly newsletter from the 37,000 farm families in this province to MPPs to keep them abreast of agriculture issues by advice and education. Mr. Emiry noted that it is excellent that some of the members are running in the municipal elections as there are issues pertaining to municipalities.
Property taxes are a bone of contention with those in the agriculture sector as taxes on farm properties have risen substantially. Mr. Emiry commented that the taxes on his property have gone up 120 percent over four years. He suggested members quiz those running for election on this topic and also about why rural schools such as the one in Webbwood are closing.
Elections were held at this meeting with Jim Anstice retaining his title as policy advisor counsellor. Three needed directors were elected and include Mike Dawson, Alan Emiry and Rick Campbell.
A topic of great concern to those in agriculture sectors was brought up once again and this was the issue of crop damage by geese and Sandhill cranes, something that was sent to the OFA board of directors as long ago as 2011. Then Northeast Town councillor and MNSOFA member Paul Skippen got the conversation started by speaking of his run-around with various government officials to get something done about this problem, saying that the route would go to the Ministry of Agriculture and then on to the Ministry of Natural Resources and so on.
“We need OFAH to support what we need,” he said, speaking on the desire for an earlier spring hunt and a fall hunt of the geese and cranes. “We have disasters year after year,” he added.
There were several remarks from other members around this issue including ‘there is no season for Sandhill cranes, so initiate one,’ to ‘introduce a season for cranes the same as Canada geese, both spring and fall,’ to ‘the spring season for geese has to be earlier, before nesting.’
In the end, two motions were passed with a three-week extension in the fall for geese as well as a three-week pre-nesting extension and a second motion for a Sandhill crane season to match the Canada geese one. As well as the OFA, the motions will go to the MNRF and to the federal government.