By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is lobbying cabinet ministers and MPPs on its four priorities for farming and the rural economy in the upcoming provincial budget, expected to be brought down in the early spring.
The priorities in the federation's budget submission include: investing in rural infrastructure, expanding natural gas to rural Ontario, balancing electricity distribution costs and supporting and improving the risk management program.
"Farm businesses form the backbone of our robust food system and rural communities, and are poised to drive Ontario's economy," federation director Steve Brackenridge writes in a commentary on the organization's website.
When it comes to infrastructure, "roads, bridges, drainage and connectivity are vital to maintain and grow our food system," he said.
"Rural communities have a disproportionately large stock of infrastructure compared to their local tax base."
The federation wants the government to work with municipalities across rural Ontario to develop and adopt a cost-effective infrastructure replacement program including roads, bridges and drainage, Brackenridge said. They also want broadband capacity to thrive.
Expanding natural gas to rural Ontario remains a key federation policy. It wants the government to commit to a 20-year program, investing $75 million a year to provide a rural natural gas network.
The federation wants the government to provide short-term relief for electricity costs to rural areas by equalizing distribution costs across the province.