Canada continues to focus on growing its agri-business economy with key programs targeting innovation, competitiveness and market development in the agri-food and agri-products sectors.
After its big launch in April 2013, the "Growing Forward 2" program continues nationally. This is a $3 billion federal, provincial and territorial government investment to support agriculture from 2013-2018. It provides cost-shared funding for a wide number of agriculture and agri-business projects.
In British Columbia, Growing Forward 2 grants are open to activities or projects that are within two years of commercialization and focus on energy and waste management, new product development and commercialization, climate change adaptation, improvements in soil, water and air quality, or advancements in Plant, Animal and Food Science. Other funding opportunities support biosecurity and surveillance initiatives, including an On Farm Food Safety Program to facilitate the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAPs) and/or recognized national/ international on-farm food safety (OFFS) systems by producers. There is also a focus on traceability and premises identification with the Traceability Adoption Program. For more information on BC opportunities, go to http://www.iafbc.ca/agri-innovation.htm
Ontario is also focused on growing agri-business in a big way. Last year, Ontario and the Government of Canada announced $417 million in funding to support innovative initiatives over the next five years in Ontario. Grants are available for projects involving six key areas of focus: environment and climate change adaptation, animal and plant health, market development, labour productivity enhancements, assurance systems (food safety, traceability, and animal welfare), business and leadership development and innovation.
One of the beneficiaries of Ontario's earlier investment in innovation is Ferrero Canada Limited. Ferraro opened its factory in Brantford, Ontario in 2006 and produces Nutella spread and Ferrero Rocher chocolates for the North American and Australian markets. Ferrero Canada is the largest purchaser of hazelnuts in the world. Its demand for hazelnuts led Ferrero Canada to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Ontario Hazelnut Association to develop a hazelnut crop in south western Ontario.
Recent developments in Ontario have highlighted this focus on developing new agriculture crops. It helps that Premier Kathleen Wynne is also the Minister of Agriculture and Food! Agriculture is big business in Ontario: the agri-food sector contributes approximately $34 billion to the province's economy and supports more than 740,000 jobs across Ontario. In late 2013, Premier Wynne challenged the agri-food industry to double its growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs in Ontario by 2020. To support these efforts, the Province is providing both funding and regulatory support, in addition to its partnership with Canada in the Grow Forward 2 program.
By way of background, Ontario established its "Open for Business" initiative in 2010 to develop a collaborative relationship between the government and key business stakeholders to drive economic activity. The agri-food sector initiative is co-chaired by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The initial process identified the top five regulations that negatively impacted business along with solutions to reduce regulatory red tape. These discussions led to regulatory amendments, including changes to the Meat Regulation under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 around when a provincial meat plant licence is required. The Open for Business consultations identified the need for an ongoing forum to present regulatory changes needed to make the agri-food economy run smoother and the initiative is continuing in 2014. We can expect 2014 to see further initiatives along these lines. Ontario has launched a three-year initiative with funding of up to $10 million per year to support innovative local food projects like Ferrero Canada or smaller projects. The goal of the Local Food Fund is to increase the purchase of Ontario foods and contribute to increased economic activity.
Bill 36, Local Food Act, 2013 is part of the Province's strategy to promote local food. The bill, which received royal assent on November 6, 2013 promotes goods that are grown, harvested and processed in Ontario by setting local food goals and targets in consultation with sector partners. The Act also establishes a Local Food Week that will take place annually, beginning the first Monday in June.
Interestingly, Bill 36 also amended the Taxation Act, 2007 by creating a non-refundable tax credit of 25 percent for farmers who donate their surplus harvest to eligible community food programs such as food banks. As of January 20, 2013, the Local Food Act, 2013 and the amendments to the Taxation Act, 2007 are not yet in force.
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