Regulatory burdens and energy costs top list of grower concerns

Niagara Falls, ON -- Ontario growers face an ever more burdensome regulatory environment which is particularly onerous for smaller operations. Some of the additional concerns for 2016 and future years are in the following chart:

PROVINCE OF ONTARIO

Ontario consultations for cap and trade, waste diversion legislation
Start Date: February 2016

Noise protection for all workers exposed to 85 decibels or higher
Start Date: July 1, 2016

Small-sized business (50 employees or fewer) employer contributions to Ontario Registered Retirement Plan
Start: January 1, 2019

Reductions of 40 per cent (from 2008 levels) in phosphorus loading into Lake Erie
Start Date: by 2025

Risk assessment project for Ontario greenhouses
Start Date: 2016

“Environmental legislation dominated the latter part of the last session with resources stretched for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC),” said Baker. “With the waste diversion file and prospects of cap and trade in the next session, MOECC staff will be stretched for capacity.”The political and regulatory landscape was summarized by government relations specialist Bliss Baker, Maple Leaf Strategies, who spoke to the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association annual general meeting, January 12.

When the new legislative session starts February 16, the Ontario government will be starting budget consultations. “The deficit will still drive everything at certain points,” he predicted. “The government has so far escaped making any tough decisions, partially due to new revenue tools and the sale of Hydro One assets. However the days of avoiding major cuts may be numbered.”

Arthur Potts, parliamentary assistant to Ontario agriculture minister Jeff Leal told the audience: “There is no indifference to growing the agricultural sector. This is not a rural issue, but an Ontario issue. Don’t think we’re not interested in deficit reduction.”

On the positive side of the ledger, Bliss said that the Ontario government views the greenhouse sector as a driver for growth and jobs. However, George Gilvesy, chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, responded during the question-and-answer period.   He said that the government term “leakage” does not adequately describe the multi-million dollar investments that Ontario companies are making south of the border to build new greenhouses.

“There is no confrontation with this government because the decision-makers have evaluated the entire policy environment and walked across the border with their investment dollars,” said Gilvesy. “Those dollars are gone for good for Ontario.”

It’s not just a case of high electricity costs comparable to U.S. jurisdictions, Gilvesy said, but the looming legislative agenda of more costs downloaded to employers.

Federally, Baker says he is watching several key initiatives. They include: health food policy, innovation funding allocation, agricultural trade interests, Growing Forward 2 replacement, Canada Pension Plan enhancement as well as climate change and soil conservation initiatives.    

Here are the resolutions passed at the OFVGA annual general meeting which addressed regulatory and energy issues. 

Resolution 2016-02 – that OFVGA lobby the government of Ontario to establish an agricultural electricity rate comparable to those of geographically close provinces and states. PASSED

Resolution 2016-07 – that Ontario municipalities stop large-fill sites from being placed on class 1, prime agricultural land. PASSED

Resolution 2016-08 – that OFVGA immediately lobby the Ontario government to work collaboratively with the sector to help achieve the goal of reduced phosophorus in the Great Lakes tributaries or where applicable through education, investment in innovation and risk-based regulation that is both protective of environment while allowing the sector to remain competitive through reduced financial burden to growers.  PASSED

Resolution 2016-09 – that the OFVGA lobby the Ontario government to undertake a full Regulatory Impact Assessment of the proposed cap and trade program to assess the economic impact on the agricultural sector and to grant fuel and electricity distributors an initial exemption from cap and trade requirements on fuel delivered for use in agriculture PASSED

Resolution 2016-10 – that OFVGA lobby the Ontario government to continue to work with the greenhouse sector to put in place programs that allow growers to access competitively priced electricity, allowing the sector to grow and innovate through lighted 12-month production in Ontario. PASSED

Resolution 2016-11 that OFVGA lobby the Ontario government to take a more fulsome view of economic development that ensures the mandate of the provincial energy regulators directly supports the premier’s growth challenge to both agri-food and to the economy in general. PASSED

Resolution 2016-12 – that the OFVGA lobby the Ontario government to recognize the unique labour challenges faced by the fruit and vegetable sector and ensure any changes to the Employment Standards Act do not negatively impact the sector’s international competitiveness and economic viability.  PASSED

PHOTO 1: Nature Fresh Farms, headquartered in Leamington, Ontario, expects to harvest its first crop of tomatoes in late February at its new Delta, Ohio facility. The second phase and third phases are already under construction for completion later this year, bringing total Ohio acres to 45.

PHOTO 2: Electricity costs are on every Ontario grower’s mind as bills increase for heating greenhouses and cooling long-term storage. Green power sources, such as wind turbines, have been

controversial because they do not always produce energy when needed, then the stored energy is discounted to out-of-province buyers. Photo by Glenn Lowson. 

KEYWORDS: regulatory burdens; energy costs

Publish date: 
Monday, February 1, 2016

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