FORT FRANCES—The local agriculture community was hoping for a tele-conference link to the upcoming public consultations of the “Next Generation of Agriculture and Agri-Food Policy.”
But they got something even better.
The Rainy River Federation of Agriculture is sponsoring an in-person session on Monday, Feb. 12 with Ruth Hawkins, deputy director for the consultations.
“Everybody who is close to the centres gets a voice, so I’m very pleased that they decided they were going to come,” RRFA president Trish Neilson enthused.
The federal, provincial, and territorial governments are looking for input on the framework. Here in Ontario, consultations are taking place in Sudbury (Feb. 6), Kemptville (Feb. 9), Belleville (Feb. 13), Ridgetown (Feb. 15), Woodstock (Feb. 16), and Toronto (Feb. 26).
“They needed an invitation,” Neilson explained. “I was told if I was interested in inviting someone . . . they might be interested in coming.”
Consequently, a “mini session” of the larger consultations will be held here in Rainy River District, although the location has yet to be announced.
“The more, the merrier,” Neilson remarked, adding no one will be excluded. “We’ll have to put a blitz on in the community and make sure people are there.”
She hopes to see at least 10-15 people show up but added with all the different commodity groups here, she’s sure they’ll get a good turnout.
And she stressed it is very important for people, especially those from the agriculture community, to participate.
“When we did our strategic plan, the big complaint most farmers had was we’re over-regulated, we’re over-regulated, we’re over-regulated,” she noted. “We now have a chance for input.
“The regulations are here whether we like them or not, but this is our opportunity to lay out some ground rules for the next program.”
Neilson said if farmers have these concerns about policies, this is the prime time to have their voices heard.
“We’re going to have regulations, but let’s really reinforce the message that we have to be able to live with those regulations and put some suggestions on the table,” she said.
“And if we don’t do that, then we have only ourselves to blame.
“Everybody understands there has to be some rules, but rules have to empower communities and not tie their hands,” Neilson reasoned.
She noted many have seen the “over regulations” recently with the meat processing rules.
“It’s so important for our community to come out because we’re a rural community, but we’re an isolated rural community,” she said. “The regulation has to be such so they work in our area as well as the areas outside Toronto and Ottawa.
“We have such a little voice that if we don’t go out there and make them hear us, they forget we’re here.”
In addition to public consultations, stakeholders also are invited to make their views known online by visiting www.agr.gc.ca/nextgen
Discussion documents, such as papers outlining current and future challenges and a series of economic backgrounders providing information on broad trends, also are available on this website.
The focus will be on collecting input from across the spectrum of stakeholders and exchanging ideas of the future of agriculture and agri-food in Canada.
“We’d like people to read the background information so they’re up to date on it,” said Neilson, adding she’s planning to encourage the different commodity groups to have little “think-tank” sessions before the Feb. 12 consultation.
This is the second round of consultations being held to develop the new policy framework.
Round three will begin in March, with invited stakeholders analyzing the input and providing consolidated input to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments.
The current Agricultural Policy Framework agreements expire in 2008 so a new framework is expected to be implemented by then.
Anyone interested in attending the Feb. 12 session in the district is asked to call Linda Armstrong (852-3645) or Neilson (487-2519). Lunch will be available.