Ontario Doubles Down on Agriculture with Dedicated Ministry

Jun 10, 2024

New Focus on Rural Communities and Farming Sectors

By Denise Faguy

Last week marked a significant change in Ontario's governmental structure concerning agriculture and rural affairs.

Premier Doug Ford announced a strategic division of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) into two separate entities to cater more effectively to the distinct needs of rural communities and the agricultural sector.

“We had no inclination ahead of time the split was coming,” said OFA President Drew Spoelstra. “But it is not groundbreaking, splitting the two has been done before.”

Spoelstra believes the more people the Ontario Cabinet has talking about, and understanding agriculture, the better. “It’s good to have a couple of champions around the cabinet table.”

Rob Flack, who previously served as the Associate Minister of Housing and has a background in agricultural business as the former president and CEO of Masterfeeds, has been appointed the Minister of Farming, Agriculture, and Agribusiness.

His appointment has been well-received within the agricultural community. Spoelstra says that Minister Flack has a great deal of experience in agriculture, and so OFA sees this as very positive news for the agriculture industry in Ontario.

Jeff Harrison, chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, agrees, “We are excited to continue the momentum of our positive and established relationship with Minister Flack, advocating for our farmer-members and the growth of our $27 billion industry." Harrison emphasized Flack's understanding of the agricultural sector and his dedication to enhancing the lives of farming communities.

Lisa Thompson, previously heading OMAFRA, now becomes Minister of Rural Affairs. Her work has been lauded by key industry figures. "We want to thank the outgoing Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Lisa Thompson. Minister Thompson has been a crucial partner to Grain Farmers of Ontario,” said Crosby Devitt, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario

Devitt praised Thompson's passionate advocacy for the agriculture industry and expressed optimism about her continued influence in her new position. “Strong and vital rural communities are essential to farmers’ livelihoods, and we know that she will continue to be a champion for rural Ontario,” he added.

The restructuring aims to provide focused governance and support to Ontario’s farming and rural sectors, enhancing their development and addressing their unique challenges more efficiently.

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