by BETTER FARMING STAFF
And we thought 2010 was a busy year in Ontario agriculture. That’s before we experienced 2011’s two elections, a soggy spring and the introductions of a risk management plan to protect against market fluctuations as well as a proposal for a mega quarry in Dufferin County’s Melancthon township.
Not to mention the federal decision to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The decision didn’t directly affect Ontario farmers but did generate uncertainty about the federal Conservatives’ commitment to supply management. A November announcement that Canada wanted to join trans-Pacific trade talks created even more worry about supply management’s future. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz subsequently alleviated these concerns by affirming his government’s commitment to supply management.
Many other issues surfaced in 2011, including a building uneasiness about Ontario’s Green Energy Act’s impact on rural communities. Human health has been at the centre of concerns about wind power development. Meanwhile, Ontario’s small-scale solar power developers have struggled with changing promises and surprise hurdles over connecting to the grid.
There have been events other than the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board that cast doubt on Ontario’s supply-managed commodities, such as three egg-industry cases before Ontario’s courts spurred on by material collected by Norm Bourdeau, a self-described industry whistleblower. And then there has been the ongoing debate about the safety of raw milk with Grey County raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt continuing to seek reform by filing for leave to appeal his September conviction of selling and distributing raw milk.
Yet there have been many highpoints for the industry over the past twelve months too: solid crop yields despite all of the rainy weather, strong prices for grains and oilseeds as well as for most livestock and a World Trade Organization ruling that supports Canada’s claim that U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labelling, universally known as COOL, is unfair.
Now, as 2011 draws to a close, we’re asking you to weigh in on two questions: WHAT was this year’s top story in Ontario agriculture? And WHO was the top agriculture newsmaker in the province? BF