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Organic sector explores priorities in Next Ag Policy Framework

July 9, 2021  By Stuart Oke, Organic Council of Ontario

Federal, provincial and territorial governments are currently exploring the next agricultural policy framework and the organic sector is working to ensure organic producers will receive support in the next funding period.

The Next Agriculture Policy Framework (NAPF) is a five-year (2023-2028) investment by federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments of up to $3 billion in funding to strengthen and grow Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector. It will replace the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), which will end on March 31, 2023. The Organic Council of Ontario’s recommendations are based on the collaborative priorities of a working group of national and provincial organic associations across Canada and the national coalition Farmers For Climate Solutions.

Through this collaborative process, OCO has identified 3 key priorities:

Priority 1: Reward farmers for climate solutions

Farmers throughout Ontario are seeing the devastating effects caused by climate change as instances of severe weather are increasing in frequency and severity. Canadian agriculture will continue to pay the price of these devastating events, in 2018 alone, Canadian farmers experienced $2 billion in damages as a result of severe climate impacts.

OCO believes that doing nothing is more expensive than proactively working to reduce emissions and increase adaptation. Despite the ill effects of the climate crisis, there are significant opportunities for farmers to provide solutions. Increasingly, international and domestic buyers are looking to purchase farm products that reduce their climate impact. In other jurisdictions, governments support producers to adopt “climate-friendly” practices that reduce farm emissions, improve resilience and increase market access. This environment is creating an unequal playing field for Canadian producers seeking to meet this global market demand

Priority 2: Invest in organic integrity

Canada’s organic brand is at risk because there is no guaranteed funding mechanism for maintenance of the Canadian Organic Standards. Without the timely maintenance of these standards and government support for its enforcement and integrity, Canadian organic operators are at a competitive disadvantage to operators elsewhere in the world that have their organic standards fully funded by government.

Our international organic equivalency agreements also rely on Canada having updated and compliant organic standards. Funding for this process is long overdue and needed. In the provincial jurisdiction, the lack of organic regulation in Ontario – Canada’s largest organic market – introduces more risk and uncertainty into the space as the lack of regulation means that products produced and sold within the province can be marketed as organic without being in alignment with the federal standard, undermining public trust in organic certification.

Priority 3: Create programs that support organic producers

NAPF programs and funding should be accessible to all farmers, no matter their scale or approach. Currently, many programs under the framework are maladaptive or actually disincentivize organic production. In order to remedy this, each program needs to be evaluated through an organic lens.

We hope these priorities will help inform and guide this intergovernmental framework that is critical in supporting the agriculture and agri-food sector in Ontario and throughout the country.

Click here to read the OCO’s letter to the Minister on our high level priorities and visit Agriculture Canada‘s site for more details on the consultation process.

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