By Deron Johnson
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is hoping to grow the province’s agri-food and agri-products sectors by launching the Place to Grow: Agri-food Innovation Initiative – a program which the Ontario government believes will help drive innovation, reduce red tape, and address industry priorities.
Under the recently renewed Canadian Agricultural Partnership (a five-year, $3 billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments intended to support Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors), this initiative proposes to provide new cost-share funding opportunities to agriculture and agri-food value-chain partners, while encouraging greater collaboration to identify opportunities and address challenges in the agri-food sector.
The new Place to Grow program will allow organizations to apply for projects in key priority areas, including:
- Labour Supply and Training Challenges, which is a brand new category added just for this program. This is currently a key weakness in the agricultural sector and may turn out to be the most important component of the new initiative.
- Economic Development in the agri-food and agri-products sectors.
- Protection and Assurance in order to solidify the public confidence in the sector through improved oversight systems in food safety and plant and animal health.
- Environmental Stewardship with the goal of enhancing water quality and improving soil health.
- In addition, there is a new category for bold, high-impact projects that are expected to create a sector-wide benefit.
“Ontario’s agri-food sector is a huge employer in this province and a source of a wide array of food products enjoyed all over the globe. This enhanced programming will open doors for our agri-food businesses and give them more opportunities to help them grow, innovate and find greater success,” said Ernie Hardeman, the Minister responsible for OMAFRA.
Full details of the Place to Grow: Agri-food Innovation Initiative will be available in August 2019, with the first intake opening on Aug. 15, 2019 and remaining open through Sept. 27, 2019. The second intake will open on Jan. 6, 2020. Additional intakes will happen at these times: Sept. 8-29, 2020; Jan. 4-25, 2021; and Sept. 7-27, 2021. The program will include planned, predictable future intakes each year of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
The creation of the Place to Grow: Agri-food Innovation Initiative is based on a thorough review of program delivery to ensure maximum value for each dollar invested for farmers and the agri-food sector. As part of this review, it was determined that administering the cost-sharing program through OMAFRA (previously administered through the Agricultural Adaptation Council) would shorten the time for approvals and potentially save $600,000 in administration costs which could be reinvested into the program.
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association will continue to administer cost-share funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to farmers and other businesses involved in plant health projects.
To date, both the federal and provincial governments have committed cost-share support to more than 1,150 projects through the Partnership to help eligible farmers, processors, businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.