Letter to Premier Ford by Jeff Bogaerts

For the full transcript of this letter, please see https://ontariolandowners.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Yurek-Letter-04302020.pdf.

Minister Yurek: The Ontario Landowners Association extends our gratitude to your government for the positive steps taken in the current COVID-19 health crisis.

We hope that you, your family, friends, employees and colleagues are safe and doing well under the current circumstances.

Minister Yurek, the Ontario Landowners Association wishes to extend our appreciation for your invitation to attend the Stakeholder meetings held this past January and February.

The response I have received from these meetings has been exceptional and positive.

To continue this positive dialogue and relationship, we must convey to you our deep concern on issues that you must be made aware of.

I include Ministers Hardeman, Clark and Yakabuski for the purpose of keeping them informed of this developing situation and the effects it may have on their Ministries.

For your reference, I have two letters, one from Tom Black, Past President of the OLA and Elizabeth Marshall, Director of Research. These letters will give you a general understanding of the problem. For a copy of these letters, please see the original transcript at https://ontariolandowners.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Yurek-Letter-04302020.pdf.

The people of Ontario are blessed with a prosperous Agricultural industry that continues to develop and prosper since the early 1800’s.

The OLA takes the position, that the Agricultural industry in Ontario is facing a serious situation that must be addressed as quickly as possible as a direct result of the COVID-19 health crisis.

In Ontario, we have one growing season, which is extended for some food products by using greenhouse technology. Corn, soybeans, potatoes and hay are some examples that are not greenhouse products. We cannot rely on greenhouse technology alone to supply the people of Ontario.

Every growing season has specific procedures to follow and timelines to meet. The delivery of seed, fertilizer and when equipment can access fields to begin the planting process are two examples. The weather is not something that can be ordered from a catalogue, but I have been told prayers do work.

This year, there will be no guarantee that food production from other Provinces and other countries will not have their growing season and harvest impacted by COVID-19.

What is important, is to do everything possible to ensure the growing season in Ontario is successful and that every hinderance and interference has been removed.

I am receiving complaints that Conservation Authorities are charging farmers, interfering with Normal Farm Practice and requiring Permits from Municipalities before maintenance of Municipal drains can be commenced.

The people of Ontario are stressed because of COVID-19 and the direct effect it is having on their incomes, businesses, homes, rent, health, family and friends.

What they do not need, is the additional stress of any interference in food production and food prices. Not having lettuce in grocery stores in February is an inconvenience, not having Ontario apples or potatoes in February is unacceptable.

This is not a chicken little, “the sky is falling” letter. Our purpose is to bring to your attention that COVID-19 will affect food production in Ontario. To what degree the effect will be is unknown at this time.

The important question … “Will we have an abundant Fall harvest, or will we have shortages?”, the Fall harvest will give us that answer.

What is the prudent course of action to take during the COVID-19 health crisis?

The prudent course of action is to remove any known barrier that could interfere with food production and to support the Agricultural industry with every available tool at our disposal.

This afternoon, I listened intently to Premier Ford announcing the closure of additional sections of the construction industry and projecting COVID-19 deaths between 3,000 and 15,000 people over the next two years. This is heart breaking news. How many survivors will have long term physical effects of the virus. What will the long-term emotional upheaval and financial strain have on families?

This Pandemic will have significant implications for our society and economy.

Based on 2016 census data, the average age of a farmer in Ontario is 55.3 years. As of April 2, 35% of all COVID-19 cases in Canada are between the ages of 50 and 69. We can not assume that all farmers in Ontario are male, although historically this has been a high percentage. What is not in these statistics, is that family farms are operated by couples. If either partner becomes ill, the farm operation is directly affected. Our farming community is in a high-risk age category.

Minister Yurek, to ensure the best possible harvest for this growing season, we are asking for a Ministerial directive instructing Conservation Authorities to remove themselves from interfering in Normal Farm Practice. To allow fields to be tile drained, Municipal drains to be “cleaned out”, fields that have been left fallow to be re-claimed for food production and removal of the requirement for permits and studies, the time and cost for which neither is available.

The growing season is underway, and Time is of the Essence.

When this health crisis is over, Ontario will still be here. We will mourn our lost family members and friends. We will return to work, our children will go to school, our lives will go forward. We will emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Ministers, the Ontario Landowners Association is here to assist, offer suggestions, recommendations and consultation.

We stand ready to help you, help the people of Ontario, so we may always have a Place to Stand and a Place to Grow!

We are all in this together!

Jeff D. Bogaerts
President Ontario Landowners Association