March 30/2020

Hello Premier Ford

I would like to congratulate you and your government for the way that you have been handling this terrible crisis that has put the world on shut down. I also agree with you when you said that we must start to bring back to Ontario, the production of products that we all depend on for our health and security.

With that in mind, what could be more important than our own food supply.

Competition from countries where the climate is more favourable to growing vegetables and fruits, plus the manipulation of large corporations that have bought up and removed nearly all large canning and processing plants from the Niagara fruit belt, has left Ontario with only seasonal products from this province.

This is also a problem with provincial slaughter plants that have virtually disappeared from this province for several reasons but the most often reason was because of aggressive interference of non-health related regulations (demanding dual washrooms in a small plant was just unaffordable).

There is also a shortage of slaughter space in the Federal plants and much of our beef has to go to the United States for processing, which was the case during the “Mad Cow” disaster of 2004 where we could not slaughter our own animals for hamburger.

The border closing for over 2 years almost destroyed our cattle industry which has never fully recovered. If this or the next disaster closed the border with the U.S, we will be back in the same situation.

Farm-land is also under pressure all over the province, from the municipal official plans with the Conservation Authorities identifying wetlands that for years have been farmed, and the Heritage Groups identifying special features to restrict the use of the land.

Tree-cutting bylaws are stopping farmers from cutting ‘brush’ on farm fields that they have just bought. Often these are farms where the farming operations have been abandoned often due to health or no one to take over. There should never be a restriction on re-clearing land that was farmed a few years ago.

There is no Amazon Rain forest being cleared in Ontario, as virtually all land being cleared was farmed before with horses, then abandoned because of two-wheel drive tractors, and now are again viable with tile drainage.
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I would ask all politicians to take a close look at agriculture and see how fragile this sector of our society is and then think of how important it is to be self-sufficient in food especially in the time of crisis.

The founding fathers of this nation, who wrote the blueprint for how this new country, Canada, was to be operated, put the importance of agriculture above everything except mining. They even allowed farmers to cut the trees reserved for the Crown if it was to create fields, fences or buildings.
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I think that it is time to put agriculture back in its special place of importance, where it would be again recognized as an ‘essential service’. Let’s stop these special interest groups like conservation authorities and the MNR from morphing the legislation that they get their power from, into something that says they have control over agriculture.
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We have all seen on the news how China turned the boats back that had masks heading for North America, because they needed them. No one blames them for doing that but we should never again allow our country to be dependent on the rest of the world when there is a crisis. We must be self-reliant at least in our food supply.

Our lives and those of our families, depend on it.
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Tom Black,
Beef and grain farmer,
Stittsville, Ontario