Mike McMorris, LRIC CEO
Time for an Ontario Livestock Manifesto?
It is a public and proud declaration that protein (plant and animal) is key to the Manitoba economy and it sets out clear objectives for growth with whole industry support.
Livestock production is big business in Ontario, generating billions in annual farm cash receipts. And yet as Ontario’s population grows, people get further removed from the farm and agriculture in general becomes less of a focus for government.
It seems that livestock producers and their organizations are forced to play defence more and more. A livestock manifesto could change that and make a statement that livestock matters, it is here to stay and it is committed to growth. Such a manifesto would need support of all livestock sectors, others in the supply chain (feed processors, input suppliers, processors), and government. It is not a small undertaking.
And yet, do we have a choice?
Consider the growing challenges that can’t be tackled by any individual sector. These include: preparation for a multi-species disease emergency; consumer concern about a trusted food supply (a concern heightened during COVID); the prospect of competing with livestock-free products (meat, eggs and milk); access to qualified labour; and the implementation of data systems that actually show a return on investment for farmers.
The idea of working together for mutual benefit is not new and there are good examples like Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council with a focus on biosecurity; Farm and Food Care Ontario focused on public trust; and Livestock Research and Innovation Corporation with a focus on research and innovation.
Each has demonstrated success within their area of focus but the time seems right to take the next step and create a manifesto that makes a statement of strength and resolve on behalf of the entire livestock sector.