CFFO: Balanced approach to advocacy

By Brenda Dyack

The CFFO’s goal in our farming advocacy is to take a long-term view of what is best for the whole of agriculture. We recognize that over time the party in power will change. Strong local relationships with MPPs, regardless of party, whether in government or opposition, are the foundation of our relationship to government as a whole.

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The CFFO seeks to maintain a working relationship in a cooperative attitude with the provincial government of the day. Each governing party wants to do what is good for Ontarians. Each comes  with its own agenda on what that means in practice. It is important to work constructively for the most effective advocacy. Together with other organizations, CFFO has developed farmer-led responses to key government agendas.

This doesn’t mean, however, that we concede without comment to the agenda of each governing party. Criticism is necessary to point out weaknesses or problems with government proposals. The CFFO also works to recommend more beneficial alternatives.

When Ontario’s NDP government came to power in 1990, the CFFO worked cooperatively with that government and other farm organizations to create the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). It was a farmer-led solution that addressed the government’s environmental priorities. The EFP is foundational for new initiatives on farm sustainability, and versions of it can now be found in many provinces.

Farmers were concerned in 2014, when the Liberals managed to form government in primarily urban ridings. Conflict between government and some farm groups later came to a head over restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids.

The government and farm organizations learned a lot from that conflict. As a result, all came to the table with a very different approach in order to address phosphorus in Lake Erie. Effective consultation along with active participation by farm organizations, including CFFO, resulted in new farmer-led solutions. The Timing Matters Peer-to-Peer program to address winter spreading is just one example.

Now CFFO continues our advocacy tradition with our current Conservative government. As in the past, CFFO is working to build relationships with MPPs and with the government of the day. This includes face-to-face meetings, participation in government consultations, and advocacy letters. Above all, it is our local relationships with MPPs that are the key to CFFO’s ongoing success in advocacy. These relationships are vital to keeping government as a whole accountable to farmers and local farming concerns.

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Brenda Dyack is Executive Director/Acting Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.