THE VOICE OF ONTARIO'S FRUIT, VEGETABLE
AND GREENHOUSE PRODUCERS FOROVER 150 YEARS

OFVGA response to Bill 66: An Act to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin 201

Great Lakes
Algae blooms visible on the shores of the Great Lakes. Photo by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Executive Summary

1. The OFVGA supports efforts that will improve the health of the Great Lakes in a comprehensive and consistent manner that avoids overlapping legislation, duplication of efforts and aligns with current policies and regulations on regional, national and international levels. 

2. The OFVGA supports regional initiatives that include a regulatory impact assessment from all regional stakeholders.

3. The OFVGA supports science-based solutions that encourage sustainable agriculture as highlighted by the recent Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health.

4. The OFVGA supports the requirement of the Minister to report on progress arising from this legislation with Open for Business transparency.

5. The OFVGA supports inclusion of the First Nations perspective on Great Lakes Water stewardship.                  

6.  The OFVGA agrees that it makes sense to protect and restore natural habitat and biodiversity, but would suggest that targets for the lakes should be tied to science-based evidence and existing international policy. 

7.  The OFVGA supports a realistic, pragmatic and implementable policy for the sustainability of the Great Lakes.  

INTRODUCTION

Members of the OFVGA are strongly committed to providing safe and sustainable food to the consumer.  It is in the best interests of producers and consumers that food be produced and delivered in the most efficient manner possible, taking advantages of the most current technologies and innovation to make this so. Fruit, vegetable and greenhouse farmers in Ontario must continue to invest to remain competitive in the global landscape.

CONTEXT

As members of the agricultural community, horticultural producers are among the largest economic sector impacted by the introduction of legislation involving the Great Lakes.  It is with sustainability in mind (environmental, economic and social) that we provide input and comment to the proposed regulations concerning Bill 66.  The OFVGA supports a stakeholder-led, science-based approach to environmental stewardship. Ontario’s farmers have a long history of being stewards of the land and have every intention of continuing this tradition.

There is a distinct economic and social requirement for secure water access for plant and livestock production, especially in horticultural production which often requires additional water irrigation. It is imperative for policy makers to understand the crucial roll the Great Lakes play in food production. The OFVGA supports policies that protect and support the Great Lakes as a secure water source, however OFVGA cautions that restoration projects must take into account continued economic development as part of the response to the Premier’s Agri-Food Challenge. The OFVGA recognizes that the sustainability of the Great Lakes watershed is closely tied to the success of future generations and supports policies that focus on long-term solutions. With eight US states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Minnesota) and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec), directly impacted by the health of the Great Lakes, the need for cooperation amongst the regions is critical.

Use of the Precautionary Principle

The OFVGA believes that regulations should be brought forth under science-based conditions, and that when there is a gap in knowledge, it should be filled prior to making legislation. Using the so-called “Precautionary Principle” does not represent science-based legislation, but rather hearsay and political whimsy. Deriving legislation this way is not supported by the OFVGA.

Development of the Guardian’s Council

In the proposed legislation, it is suggested that the Guardian’s Council meet once per year. In principle, the OFVGA supports this concept.  However, in our view, this could be made more effective through the development of regional sub-councils that meet more frequently, as opposed to working with the entire system as a whole. One sub-council per lake is recommended, each of which would report up through the Guardian’s Council.

Duplication of Legislation

The OFVGA and its member organizations are subject to many different Acts of Parliament that impact how they deal with water issues. We are concerned that there is unnecessary duplication with Bill 66 and its interaction across other Acts.  These would be, in particular, duplication of requirements under the Ontario Water Resources Act, Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act, Source Water Protection, and the Nutrient Management Act, including new Greenhouse Nutrient Feedwater regulation under the Nutrient Management Act.  This will undoubtedly lead to confusion amongst stakeholders as to which Act takes precedence and which regulations they should adhere to. As presented, it is unclear as to how this Act will incorporate current regulations into the development of targets and initiatives. The OFVGA supports streamlined and aligned legislation that makes use of current regulation and policies and does not support duplication of legislation, requirements or reporting.

Development of Targets and Regional Initiatives

While the OFVGA can support the use of targets for items concerning water protection, it is essential that horticultural producers be part of the discussion prior to targets being set, be they qualitative or quantitative in nature. The OFVGA strongly recommends that all stakeholders to which regional targets will apply be part of the discussion.  New targets must be science-based and must consider all regulatory structures currently in place.  As an example, through the Nutrient Management Act and Agricultural Sourced Materials (ASM), horticultural farmers already have very good Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the stewardship of phosphorus. Producers are already required to have a Non-Agricultural Source Material (NASM) Plan Development Certificate for the management of NASM and other nutrients that may be applied to agricultural land or stored in NASM storage facilities. NASM are materials that are not generated from an agricultural source and must meet quality criteria listed in the Nutrient Management Act and are applied to agricultural land as a nutrient. Horticultural examples of NASM would be culled vegetables or food processing by-products.  Greenhouse Nutrient Feedwater (GNF) Regulation, O. Reg. 300/14, made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 (NMA), sets out the rules for managing GNF generated by a registered greenhouse, including rules on storage, transportation and land application. This regulation came into effect January 1, 2015.  Recent uptake of cost-share programs such as the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) prove that producers are willing to implement these BMPs to benefit the Great Lakes and water quality. To put in place additional regulatory measures could represent a duplication of effort and carries potentially unnecessary compliance costs. On the Canadian side of the lake, there is a lot less available data on the baseline loading of the lake.   Prior to establishing targets based upon best guesses, research must be done to assess what contribution current production practices provide in terms of overall load.

Prior to the implementation of new regulations, and consistent with the Government of Ontario’s 2014 Regulatory Policy guidelines, we would insist that when new targets or regional initiatives are considered that an Economic Impact Study be conducted. All of the related data should then be considered and the results fully distributed. The Economic Impact Study must be done for all regional stakeholders.  For example, the entire municipal sector will likely be impacted in terms of sewage treatment and water management.  If the economic impact shows that there is undue negative impact on stakeholders within the sector, then consideration must be given to offset this impact. This would come in the form of a Regulatory Impact Analysis statement.

There is concern within the sector that additional legislation and regulation carries with it burdensome fees. Regional initiatives must be science-based and should focus on activities that have the largest potential for impact.  In this manner, activities that are considered low risk carry a low regulatory burden leaving more resources to address higher risk activities.  This approach necessitates the accurate assessment of activities within a region and is a critical component to the development of science-based regulation.   

The Role of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)

In the proposed legislation, the assessment of wetland health is a key component.   In order for assessments to be accurate, a clear definition of ‘wetland’ must be established.  It is questioned if there is a good inventory of wetlands in Ontario, and if there is not, there is a need to collect appropriate data.    In some areas, soil is naturally wet in the spring and then dries to become fertile, agriculturally producing land throughout the remainder of the year.  This would be the case, for example, in the Holland Marsh. What would be the role of the MNRF in this circumstance?

Research and Development

Prior to implementing new regulations and targets, it is essential that scientific evidence be available to make rational and informed decisions.  There is a distinct need for monitoring and reporting programs on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. Within Bill 66, it is not clear where this responsibility falls.  Conservation Authorities are doing some of this work but in reality they lack the budget to completely evaluate such a large area. There is a very real need for comprehensive data collection and evaluation.  Clearly identifying the responsibility for the surveying and collection of data surrounding the health of the Great Lakes is suggested.

Knowledge on the true causes of Great Lakes emergencies such as the algal bloom off the coast of Toledo, Ohio is essential for good policy.  Data appear to be lacking as to the major causes for changes in health to the Great Lakes, and the OFVGA would support the government efforts to develop a comprehensive research program targeted at improving the health of the Great Lakes that includes resource use (water) and management.

Conclusions

The Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association appreciates the opportunity to comment on this proposed legislation. The OFVGA applauds the Government of Ontario in its efforts to enhance the sustainability of the Great Lakes. The OFVGA is supportive of the government as it moves forward with policies that are comprehensive, science-based and economically sound. Policies that are brought forward must keep each of these things in mind for Ontario to have a stable, secure supply of locally produced food.

The OFVGA supports efforts that will improve the health of the Great Lakes in a comprehensive and consistent manner that avoids overlapping legislation, duplication of efforts and aligns with current policies and regulations on regional, national and international levels. The OFVGA questions the need for new legislation as the proposed legislation is covered by other legislative frameworks.  Decisions must be based upon a full evaluation of science-based research. Furthermore, targets must be based upon current and new data by supporting research on the Great Lakes and their respective watersheds.  The Guardian’s Council must be inclusive of producers. Before  legislation is moved forward, an Economic Impact Study must be conducted.

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About the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) was established in 1859, which makes it one of Ontario and Canada’s oldest farm commodity organizations.  As the voice of Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse farmers, the OFVGA is a nationally recognized not-for-profit association that advocates on behalf of Ontario fruit and vegetable farmers and the edible horticulture industry, representing its members provincially, nationally, and internationally. 

The sector supports 30,000 farm-based, non-family jobs in Ontario, as well as a further 8,700 jobs specific to horticulture and specialty crops. Over 125 different fruit and vegetable crops are grown in Ontario with an estimated annual farm gate value of $1.6 billion (2013).


CONTACTS

Dr. John Kelly, Executive Vice President
Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
105 – 355 Elmira Road North
Guelph, Ontario  N1K 1S5
E. johnkelly@ofvga.org
T. 519-763-6160 x115

Mark Wales, Section Chair
Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
105 – 355 Elmira Road North,
Guelph, Ontario  N1K 1S5
E. walesfarm@hotmail.com
T. 519-773-6706

Brian Gilroy, Section Chair
Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
105 – 355 Elmira Road North
Guelph, Ontario.  N1K 1S5
E. nighthawkorch@brucetelecom.com
T. 
519-270-3032

Dr. Justine Taylor, Energy and Environment Co-ordinator
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
32 Seneca Rd
Leamington, Ontario N8H 5H7
E. 
jtaylor@ontariogreenhouse.com
T. 
519-326-2604 x205