By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
Agriculture funding mechanisms are complicated and difficult for those outside the farming community to understand.
There are a variety of multi-faceted programs, some aimed at one sector and some which are broader.
The Risk Management Program, or RMP for short, assists farmers in coping with costs beyond their control, such as fluctuating market prices. It assists producers of grains and oilseeds (corn and soybeans), cattle, edible horticulture, hogs, sheep, and veal. In other words, RMP covers the vast majority of products produced in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Using grains and oilseeds as an example, RMP was designed in conjunction with commodity groups and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It takes into account not only the commodity price but also the cost of production. In a good year, RMP isn’t accessed.
A study by the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition found that every dollar spent on RMP leads to a $2.01 to $3.60 return on the investment. This led to an increase in economic output of between $282.6 and $506.2 million in 2020. With the assurance of RMP, it allows farmers to increase investment in equipment, labour and technology. It’s a well-respected insurance/assurance program.
During a recent meeting with the Beef Farmers of Ontario, the one thing on the top of their wish list was a $100 million top-up to RMP – this would set the program at $250 million. This is a request I took to the floor of the Ontario Legislature but was not successful in getting a commitment for funding.
The government did announce funding through the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership for investments in technology and equipment to increase production capacity or enhance efficiency. This is a great program, but it doesn’t have the certainty that RMP provides. It also requires investment, something that all farmers may not be in a position to make.
Ontario, like many jurisdictions, is in a situation where the majority of farmers are aging and it’s difficult for new, younger farmers to enter. The price of farms is well over $1 million, then add on the price of equipment, which tacks on hundreds of thousands of dollars, and one can understand why it’s just about impossible for someone to start farming without a family connection.
A recent report by RBC illustrates how dire the situation is. It found 40 per cent of farmers will retire by 2033, and 60 per cent don’t have a succession plan. An increase in RMP won’t solve the high entrance price for farming, but it will provide certainty, which could assist with succession planning within families.
I sometimes compare RMP to the investments government makes attracting industry to the province. The main difference being RMP is an investment in Ontario farmers that will produce food for the long haul. RMP is an investment in rural Ontario, and one into the future of food production. It’s a good investment, in contrast to an investment in a battery plant we recently learned will be built by people from another country.
As I sit and listen to the legislation that will see the province take over the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, I think that a $100 million investment in RMP would be a drop in the bucket compared to what just two roadways in the province will cost all Ontario residents.
Bobbi Ann Brady is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.