Sector-specific farm policy needed, says new report



    GUELPH, ON, June 26 /CNW/ - Ontario's highly diverse and segmented farm
industry is being hurt by a one-size-fits-all policy approach and should
consider sector-specific recommendations, says a new report.
    "Five Sectors, Five Futures," from the Guelph-based Institute of
Agri-Food Policy Innovation, calls on Ottawa to abandon its industry-wide
policy approach, which the institute says is holding Ontario agriculture back.
Ontario's five leading farm sectors - grains and oilseeds, hogs, beef, dairy
and greenhouses - are just too different to be served by the same policies and
strategies.
    Instead, the report makes three recommendations.
    First, it suggests the federal government change the direction of
agricultural policy in Canada and move more resources from income support to
innovation and new markets.
    As well, it says the sectors themselves should take ownership in their
very different futures - developing and executing their own strategic plans.
    And finally, it calls on the government to create policies specifically
for small farms, which the latest Census of Agriculture calls an important and
growing part of the farm community.
    "These sectors are more different than alike," says report author David
Sparling, executive director of the institute. "They need strategies that are
their own, that go way beyond policies based on when the next cheque is
arriving in the mail."
    The report shows Ontario's farming industries vary in almost every
dimension. For example, beef, grain and oilseed farms are dominated by small
farms. Up to 80 per cent sell less than $100,000. Hog farm numbers have
dropped, average farm size has increased and incomes are down.
    Dairy farms have also been growing in size, with just seven per cent
having sales under $100,000. They are profitable and their average equity,
$1.9 million, is more than double that of other sectors. Greenhouses have
boomed, with farms over $1 million in sales accounting for 80 per cent of the
sector.
    Recognizing this diversity is vital as the farm industry enters a pivotal
period for negotiating the next national agri-food policy framework, a huge
federal initiative that sets the direction, environment and culture for
farming in every province.
    "The current federal policy focuses on viewing government payments as a
key industry strategy," says Sparling. "That's outdated thinking that holds
all sectors back and fails to act on their unique strengths and weaknesses."
    Sparling says opportunities exist to expand markets and change the role
of agriculture in society, affecting the health, environment and energy
resources of all Canadians. Investing in research, new products, new markets
and new thinking will go a lot further to helping agriculture realize these
opportunities than a government support cheque, he says.
    "Farmers deserve better than this," says Sparling. "It's time for
governments and industry to show leadership and develop policies that
recognize Ontario's diversity."

    The Institute of Agri-Food Policy Innovation was established in 2005
through a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and
Rural Affairs and the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph. The
institute identifies and assesses policy issues of special significance to the
agri-food industry and rural communities.

    To view the whole report, http://www.iafpi.ca/sector_summary.htm.

    Visit the IAFPI website: http://www.iafpi.ca.





For further information:

For further information: David Sparling, Executive Director, (519)
341-9175, dsparling@iafpi.ca

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INSTITUTE OF AGRI-FOOD POLICY INNOVATION

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