Ontario agriculture received a heavy blow with the announcement that the University of Guelph will be closing its Kemptville and Alfred College campuses by the end of 2015.
While the university says it will continue to manage field crop research facilities at both locations, delivery of academic programs will come to an end.
The university says it will reinvest in strategic areas that further support Ontario’s agri-food sector, including new research appointments at the Guelph campus. But strengthening core programs near Guelph will do little to benefit prospective students who wish to stay and work in eastern Ontario.
The news has hit farm families in that region hardest because many students cannot afford to move across the province when they are still needed to work weekends on the family farm.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is deeply disappointed in the University of Guelph’s decision, which we feel is inconsistent with its mission to serve society and to recognize agriculture and veterinary medicine as areas of special responsibility.
But eastern Ontario isn’t the only region troubled by this announcement. Agricultural colleges such as Kemptville and Alfred have produced knowledgeable managers and skilled farm workers critical to the future success of Ontario’s entire agrifood sector.
Their absence will leave a significant gap for our industry, that offers among the highest employability rates in Canada, with three jobs waiting for every agriculture graduate in Ontario alone.
Ontario agriculture is a fiercely progressive industry. We are early adapters of new technologies, and we rely on our academic institutions for sustainability, advancements and improvements.
Those skills are particularly in demand now, as our sector rises to premier Kathleen Wynne’s challenge to double the annual growth rate of our sector by the year 2020.
While the University of Guelph has chosen to discontinue the role it played in providing educational opportunities in eastern Ontario, this cannot be the end of agricultural academics in that region.
There is work to be done, and Ontario needs educated young people to do it.
Ontario agriculture will work with the ministry of agriculture and food to ensure this need is met, continuing to enable prosperous and sustainable farms.
Eleanor Renaud, director,
Ontario Federation of Agriculture,
When agriculture minister Gerry Ritz brought in the Growing Forward I program, he boasted that finally the farmers have an insurance program with some protection. This was done with a minority government.
When Ritz with a majority government five years later met with the provincial agriculture ministers in Whitehorse about the Growing Forward II program, it’s clear he railroaded them into agreeing to drastic cuts, which made AgriStability not worth the paper it’s written on. I remember our Saskatchewan agriculture minister saying he reluctantly signed it.
If the program was so lucrative then, it would have been challenged by the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and WTO.
In Growing Forward II, the reference margin used is the lesser of the reference margin or eligible expenses, which amounts to about 40 percent of the original reference margin. In other words, the income would have to be less than 40 percent of the original reference margin to even think about getting some puny prorated support.
If Ritz wanted to cut, something like 90 percent of the original reference margin would not have been as drastic.
Before the last election, Ritz said he would let wheat farmers vote on the future of the CWB.
With a majority government after the last election, he didn’t have to listen to anybody as the vote never happened.
When Ritz gutted AgriStability, he said grain prices have reached a new plateau, obviously with no consideration that expenses have reached a new plateau also, expenses go up with the price of grain but they don’t come down with the price of grain, and that grain prices go up and down and droughts are always a possibility. An eight-year-old farm boy would know that.
Mr. Ritz, you were right as usual. With wheat prices at $3.50 per bushel, grain prices have reached a new plateau.
With low crop insurance coverage and gutted AgriStability this year, it’s obvious this government doesn’t care about leaving farmers hang out to dry.
Agriculture affects everybody. Some countries that have had famines support agriculture. This government takes farmers as a liability and as fools. Their best before date has long expired.
IT’S MUCH TOO LATE
If you think this is the first time the railways have let farmers down and refused to move grain to the West Coast, it’s not. When I was first elected to the advisory committee of the Canadian Wheat Board, CN (Canadian National Railway) did just that.
I recall sitting around the board table when Canada was coming under heavy criticism by Japan and China for not fulfilling our contracts. There were ships waiting in the harbour and more due in soon. They didn’t have large stocks to keep their mills running and needed grain right now.
Japan bought No. 1 red 13.5 percent protein. China bought No. 3 red, as their need was to feed people. To fill our contract, the board would take the required grade from whichever elevator had it.
Anyway, the pressure from two of our large customers became so great the board launched a lawsuit with CN and dispatched Mr. Charles Gibbing, who was a board member, to go to those countries and try to explain why there was a lack of grain at the West Coast, and try to re-establish our credibility as a reliable supplier of grain.
And, believe it or not, the Palliser Wheat Growers, as they were called then, were holed up in Saskatoon defending the railways in any way they could.
The lawsuits never went to conclusion because the railways wanted to settle out of court for an undisclosed amount that would not be made public. As I recall, the board agreed just to get grain moving again.
The money was deposited into the final payment to be paid out to farmers in the normal way. I recall writing a letter in the paper to those who didn’t want their shares handled this way, and could have it sent to them if they were inclined to give it to the railway.
Now, we have marketing freedom. The (prime minister Stephen) Harper government has fired all the elected directors and the CWB CEO, Mr. Adrian Measner.
And, there’s no farmer marketing agency to allocate grain shipping or deal with railways.
The politicians now are under so much pressure from everyone, they’re trying to do it themselves, and it’s much too late.
Now, we have a real mess and our longtime customers are going to others to get the grain and our farmers are paying dearly for this marketing freedom.
Re: Open Forum letters, March 6, where (agriculture minister) Gerry Ritz wrote “Vision for agriculture.” I must respond.
Gerry’s quote: “Our government’s vision for agriculture is founded in the direction that the vast majority of producers are asking us to take.”
Mr. Ritz, as an ex-ostrich farmer you know that when the big bird gets confused he buries his head in the sand. It is obvious that before you went belly up at your ostrich enterprise, you watched your birds way too much and followed their antics.
How would you know what the vast majority of producers want? With the Canadian Wheat Board issue, you wouldn’t even allow them a vote on the issue, as you promised in your election campaign.
With the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures issue and the Indian Head Tree Nursery issue, you certainly never asked the ranchers, farmers or PFRA patrons — so how do you know what they want?
You just keep your head in the dirt. Hopefully no one will add water.
Swift Current, Sask.
Eleanor Renaud, director,