Candidates to be asked about farming issues
The Norfolk Federation of Agriculture intends to press the interests of local farming and the rural economy in the June 7 provincial election, says president Bob Vogelzang.
In an interview, Vogelzang listed the federation’s involvement in the election campaign in Haldimand-Norfolk riding as one of the federation’s main priorities for 2018.
“We want to ask all the candidates their positions on agricultural issues,” he said, adding that includes hosting an all-candidates meeting.
“We have several bees in our bonnet with this government.”
A list of important subjects, he said, would include each party’s position on cap and trade and its potential to increase the cost of farming; an increase in the provincial minimum wage to $14 per hour with another hike to $15 per hour coming on Jan. 1, 2019; the province’s pesticide regulations which still “stick in the craw”; and increases in electricity costs.
That last one is a major sore point with the farming community, Vogelzang said.
The Kathleen Wynne government’s decision to offer what appears to be a rollback in hydro costs by repaying on debt charges over a longer period of time is not a real solution, he said.
“They’ve just kicked the debt down the road.”
Vogelzang said other issues that Norfolk farmers have to tackle this year, along with their affiliated Ontario Federation of Agriculture counterparts, include thrashing out the issue of traceability in fresh fruits and vegetables; getting a successor to the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 program; and resolving the problem of phosphorous loading.
Although nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur cycle naturally throughout the environment, an increase in levels of these particular pollutants, due to human activity, are occurring at concentrations which can put species at risk through the creation of algae blooms.
Much of the increase is a result of various agricultural, industrial, and urban activities. The problem of phosphorous loading is well documented and debated in the case of Lake Erie.
“Farmers in Ohio are getting help with the problem of phosphorous loading,” Vogelzang noted.
“We need something on our side of the lake, too,” he said, adding that the agriculture federations want to ensure that regulatory policies are fair.
“There’s always something coming that’s going to affect us,” he said.
“We feel that farmers are easy pickings,” he said. “It’s the NFA’s job to keep the local farmers informed and make sure they have a voice.”
The federation is also interested in the debate over the eradication of phragmites, or at least bringing it to heel.
“It’s very invasive in Norfolk, particularly near Lake Erie,” Vogelzang said. “A product has been registered in the U.S. but there isn’t any product here that we can use to kill it. We need to get it registered in Ontario.”
The NFA will hold its annual general meeting on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at Ramblin Road, 2970 Swimming Pool Rd., La Salette.