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Shawn Brenn, L, chair, OFVGA and Mike Chromczak, vice-chair, speak to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on April 2, 2024.
Shawn Brenn, L, chair, OFVGA and Mike Chromczak, vice-chair, speak to Ontario Premier Doug Ford on April 2, 2024.
April 03, 2024

The annual general meeting of the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) in February and the annual meeting of the Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada (FVGC) in March are good occasions to report on the activities and accomplishments of the past year.


At the same time, they let us re-evaluate our priorities for the coming months – and although growers’ attention will be focused on the start of the new growing season, the OFVGA will continue to push forward on the issues that matter to our members.


Many of these files are not new; in fact, sometimes it feels like many issues are ongoing with little progress to show for our efforts. At the same time, we always have to be alert for new challenges on the horizon that we weren’t anticipating.


Last year, for example, responding to the Ontario government’s proposed planning amendments under Bill 97 and the Provincial Policy Statement took considerable effort by OFVGA board and staff throughout late spring and into summer.


What surprises this year will bring is anybody’s guess, but as an organization, we are committed to making sure we have the resources in place to respond effectively on behalf of growers to whatever issues do arise.


We will, for example, be expanding our staff capacity with the addition of another policy advisor position this spring. We’ve also just completed a very thorough governance review that resulted in by-law updates and changes that were presented and passed at the AGM in February. We’ll be putting the finishing touches on that process in the coming months and are starting to work on the resolutions passed by members at the AGM as well.


OFVGA is also continuing to evolve the More Than A Migrant Worker initiative. What started as a public awareness campaign coming out of the challenges faced by growers and seasonal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic has become an important advocacy tool for the entire sector. That’s why we’ve committed increased funding for this year and are expanding our messaging to new target audiences, including partners from our source countries and more directed and targeted government outreach.


Labour is a priority file for OFVGA and there is activity on many fronts. We continue to explore new source country opportunities, are working to strengthen our relationships with existing partner countries, and are taking an active role in policy discussions affecting international workers wherever possible, particularly around easing the regulatory and cost burden of on-farm housing.


Many OFVGA members rely on the Foodland Ontario brand as part of the marketing and promotion strategy for their commodities. Over the past 12 months or so, we’ve been hearing from our members that the program’s activities are no longer as robust as they had been in the past, so we have been urging the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to strategically review Foodland Ontario with the goal of modernizing it for the future.


Since January 2024,  we’ve been able to engage in some discussions with OMAFRA staff on the issue and we’re hopeful it will result in some positive outcomes for both growers and this well recognized consumer brand that is such an important tool in promoting local food in our province.


For the past three years, we’ve been working with our Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC) partners to advocate for a $100 million increase in provincial government funding for the Risk Management Program (RMP)/Self-Directed Risk Management (SDRM) program.


Growers need additional support to help deal with the challenges of today’s farm business environment, such as rising costs, increasing regulations and pricing for our crops that is stagnant or even decreasing. Unfortunately, we have little progress to report on this file, but we continue to make our case, including suggesting a phased-in approach to the ask.


Another issue that we’ve been working on without resolution is that of Environmental Compliance Approvals impacting storm water runoff for greenhouses, root vegetable wash water in the Holland Marsh, and septic systems for seasonal worker housing. OFVGA was first approached by growers about this in 2022 and initially, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks expressed willingness to collaboratively work on solutions. Unfortunately, there has been little progress from the Ministry on this issue since then, despite ongoing efforts by OFVGA.


Since last summer, plastics reduction has also been on our radar. That’s when the federal government announced its proposal to require 75 per cent of fresh fruits and vegetables be sold in bulk and/or plastic-free packaging by 2026 and 95 per cent by 2028. Many fruit and vegetable crops are too fragile for bulk sales, and OFVGA is working with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) and FVGC to highlight the potential negative impacts of these policies to the federal and provincial governments.


And finally, I think an issue that will be increasing in importance is Ontario’s infrastructure challenges with respect to electricity, natural gas, broadband internet and even cell coverage. We must have reliable and affordable access to these types of services across Ontario for our sector to stay viable, competitive and able to meet the goals of OMAFRA’s Grow Ontario strategy.




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Submitted by Shawn Brenn on 3 April 2024