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Ont. signs onto GF2, continues previous programming

EFP, Growing Your Farm Profits to be continued

Ontario has become the second province to sign on for the sequel to the federal/provincial Growing Forward ag policy funding framework, and plans to continue several programs it offered during the framework's previous run.

The provincial government said Tuesday it has signed its five-year bilateral agreement for Growing Forward 2, locking in its piece of $2 billion in total nationwide cost-shared funding for non-business risk management (BRM) initiatives, effective from Monday until the end of March 2018.

Ontario's federal/provincial combined share of that $2 billion commitment amounts to $417 million.

Information sessions on GF2 programs will be available in April and May, and education workshops will be available starting in May, the province said.

Funding assistance for "capacity building" including skills development and training, assessment and planning, will be available starting in June, the province said, and funding assistance for implementing projects will be available in the fall.

Among educational programs to continue from the first Growing Forward framework are the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) workshops, the province said Tuesday. Both programs are delivered in Ontario by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA).

The EFP and GYFP programs' future had been a question mark since the end of February, when OSCIA had told contracted EFP and GYFP workshop leaders, program representatives and program review committee members in a letter that their services were no longer required.

OSCIA executive director Harold Rudy said last month the organization was only winding down those fixed-term agreements as per its contractual obligations under Growing Forward, and looked forward to "learning about new opportunities in GF2."

Other workshops and e-learning activities "will be phased in over the next year," the province said Tuesday.

The province said Ontario and Canada, through GF2, will offer "many opportunities to help farm, food and bioproducts businesses, organizations and industry collaborations grow their profits, expand their markets and manage risks," but did not specifically mention any GF2 commitment to Ontario's Risk Management Program (RMP) -- a sore spot during GF2 talks between the federal and provincial ag ministers in mid-2011.

Ontario's Agricultural Adaptation Council will deliver GF2-backed programming for "collaborations and organizations" on behalf of the government, the provincial government said Tuesday, and the province will deliver GF2 programs for food and bioproduct processors.

Innovation remains a "key component" in GF2, which the province said "will continue to support innovation hubs such as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and business services through the Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre."

The GF-backed Farm Innovation Program, meanwhile, will be continued for one year as the "Ontario Farm Innovation Program" and will be available through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the province said Tuesday.

The existing suite of BRM programs, including AgriStability and AgriInvest, will continue to be delivered through Ontario's Agricorp "to help farmers manage risks resulting from adverse weather conditions, market volatility and increased input costs."

Bilateral talks between the federal government and the remaining provinces and territories are "well underway" toward similar GF2 agreements, the federal government said Monday. The Alberta government signed on for its $406 million share on March 25.

Related stories:
Growing Forward sequel now in effect,
April 1, 2013
Feds to end regional ag councils' funding role,
April 17, 2012
Ontario dissents on plans for Growing Forward sequel,
July 10, 2011


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