Letter to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

January 15, 2016

Dear Dr. Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner,

I am writing you on behalf of the 28,000 grain and oilseed farmers that Grain Farmers of Ontario represents. We would like to request a meeting in the next couple of weeks to provide you with an overview of our industry and information about the commitment to the environment and stewardship practiced by our farmer-members.

We would also like to specifically address the comments we have seen in the media this week from your office. We firmly believe in education and collaboration. It is easy to have misconceptions – the best way to ensure that we understand your priorities for the environment and our business, as well as for you to understand our sector, is to sit down and share ideas and information.

Ontario grain and oilseed farmers grow barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat and the end products made from our crops are used to feed people, provide environmentally sustainable alternatives to products traditionally produced from fossil fuels, and feed animals. The grain farming sector is a major contributor to the Ontario economy and the environment in many very positive ways. Grain farmers are stewards of both their productive and non-productive farmland. There are many wetlands and other environmentally beneficial spaces created by farmers and there are a number of ways that both farmland and farmers contribute to a sustainable Ontario environment.

I have been travelling across the province over the past week and farmers from all regions are alarmed by comments they have read in the media about coloured diesel, coming from your office. Agriculture consumes only three percent of all diesel used in Ontario. The amount of diesel used by grain farmers has steadily declined over the years as the result of improved efficiencies in farming practices (reducing machinery passes on fields) and improved fuel efficiencies in farm vehicles and machinery. The road tax exemption for coloured diesel has been in place for farmers across North America for many years, because farm machinery is not intended for use on roads. It is also important to note that Ontario grain farmers are price takers, as grain is traded on a global market – we compete directly with US farmers in the Great Lakes Basin who have significantly lower production costs.

The road tax exemption is important for Ontario grain farmers, as well as many other sectors of agriculture across the province. I look forward to discussing this, and more, with you in the near future.

Debra Conlon from our office will be in touch to schedule a meeting.

Sincerely,

Mark Brock
Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario

National Wheat Improvement Program Cluster, Activity 5: Development of improved spring wheat cultivars with enhanced disease and pest resistance, higher nutritional benefits, and better market appeal and grain quality for eastern and central Canada

Principal Investigator

Shahrokh Khanizadeh

Research Institution

Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

External Funding Partners

This project is part of the $25.2 million National Wheat Improvement Program funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA), the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Industry-Led Research and Development Stream of the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program. Grain Farmers of Ontario is a founding member of the CFCRA.

Project Start

April 2013

Project End

March 2018

Objectives

  • Develop improved disease resistant spring wheat cultivars with better market appeal and grain quality; and adapted for eastern Canada.
  • Develop and apply selection techniques in breeding to increase screening efficiency for disease resistance to important diseases, such as rust, powdery mildew and Fusarium head blight (FHB).
  • Improve and apply methodologies for screening quality, such as bran physical properties, milling properties and dough functionality affecting processing.

Impact

  • The improvement of eastern Canada spring wheat in terms of yield, disease resistance and quality may allow producers greater access to value-added processing markets surrounding the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River.
  • The improvements to eastern Canadian spring wheat with greater disease resistance could allow for increased economic sustainability, allowing farmers to use less pesticide and be more efficient using inputs on their farm.

Scientific Summary

While most of the Canadian production of hard red and white spring wheat is in the Prairie provinces, the most important domestic market of well over a million tonnes is in eastern Canada. The milling, processing, and baking industry is centered around the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence River, and has undergone an unprecedented expansion into value-added processing in recent years to supply the huge market on both sides of the Canada-US border. However, growers in eastern Canada have been able to supply only a fraction of this large market on their doorstep, due to generally low yields, low quality, and especially infection by Fusarium graminearum, the fungus causing Fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB is the most important disease of hard spring wheat because it affects not only grain yield but also grain quality and food safety through mycotoxins that render the grain suitable only for feed, or blending. Resistance to the fungus causing FHB has not been detected in any wheat variety. Levels of the major mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) that results from FHB are a good indicator of the degree of infection and are therefore used as a screening tool for resistance. This challenge presents exciting new opportunities for plant scientists to combine the highest possible levels of resistance with excellent milling and baking quality.

This project builds on the results obtained from a previous research project, which indicated an opportunity to create new disease resistant spring wheat varieties in order to increase profitability including value-added products and quality enhancements at the processing level and with lower production costs. The project is composed of three main parts: 1) breeding and selection including the use of markers, evaluation of advanced lines nationally, 2) disease evaluation and 3) grain quality evaluation. The proposed team is a group of well-known researchers, expert in breeding, genetic, use of markers, disease evaluation and quality analysis and effectively complement each other from crossing to variety release.

Grain Farmers of Ontario congratulates new minister of agriculture Ted McMeekin

GUELPH, ON (October 20, 2011) – Grain Farmers of Ontario is pleased with the appointment of Ted McMeekin to the position of Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. 

Minister McMeekin has been a long time supporter of farmers in Ontario and an advocate for our Risk Management Program since the pilot program was introduced in 2007.  With his extensive experience as a minister, parliamentary secretary and in his municipality we are confident Minister McMeekin will be a strong leader for our agricultural industry.

“Our organization has many exciting new initiatives in market development and research that will benefit the province of Ontario,” says Don Kenny Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario.  “We look forward to meeting with Minister McMeekin to discuss the many ways we can work together to ensure the success of the Ontario grain industry.”

Opportunities for market growth for Ontario’s grain farmers to discuss with the new minister will include a provincial bio-diesel mandate to match the federal two percent mandate announced earlier this year, a united strategy for research and market development, a Capital Cost Allowance acceleration for capital purchases and a tax credit for certified seed.

“Ontario’s grain farmers will be pleased with this announcement,” continues Kenny.  “Minister McMeekin is a supporter of his local farmers through a local food campaign and this support will now extend right across the province.” 

Grain Farmers of Ontario

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.