September 6, 2005

Action plan to improve competitiveness of the GTA's agricultural industry

Representatives from all levels of government and the farming community today officially launched a new agricultural action plan designed to optimise the opportunities and address the challenges facing the agricultural industry across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

"Our challenge at the regional and local level is to help the agricultural community make frequent and profitable contact with consumers," said Regional Chair and CEO Bill Fisch.  "Fresh, local produce is a valuable resource that enhances the quality of life in our communities."

In June, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced funding of $800,000 collectively for the regional municipalities of Durham, Halton, Peel and York to help strengthen the agricultural industry across Ontario's Greenbelt.  This funding will support the implementation of the GTA Agricultural Action Plan.

The 43-page plan outlines the background and opportunities for the industry around areas such as economic development, education and marketing, a land use policy, and ways to sustain co-operative working partnerships that are necessary for successful implementation of the plan.

"Preserving farmland and encouraging agricultural viability is an important part of the McGuinty government's Greenbelt Plan," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing John Gerretsen.  "By giving farmers the tools they need to be successful, we can help ensure stronger communities, healthier Ontarians and a more prosperous economy."

"We want to work with local municipalities to stop the decline in the number of farms in the GTA and ensure those that remain are financially viable," said Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.  "Our goal is to ensure that this province's agri-food industry thrives and broadens its scope in the decades to come." 

The regions of Durham, Halton, Peel and York have been working with the GTA Federations of Agriculture, the Ontario ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the City of Toronto and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), to develop a program to keep the agricultural industry in the GTA competitive given the economic, land use and labour pressures faced by farmers.

"We appreciate this kind of focused and co-ordinated approach to solving the business challenges we face," said GTA Federations of Agriculture representative and cash-crop farmer Peter Lambrick.  "Most important, though, farmland value must be protected and supported through public policy and programs."

The plan identifies 37 action items as well as the organizations that will assume responsibility for how the actions will be implemented.

The plan's priority objectives include ensuring the financial viability of the industry, promoting increased sales of locally grown products, supporting young farmers and conducting workshops on farm business management.

The event was held at Chesslawn Vineyards and Winery, 8859 Castlederg Side Road, west of Hwy. 50, north of Bolton.  It included a farm tour and a sampling of local farm fresh products.

Click here to view the plan

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Media contact: Tim Paleczny, Corporate Communications

905-830-4444 ext. 1238


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