January 11, 2016

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier:

I am pleased to highlight our progress in achieving my mandate letter commitments.

Supporting the Growth of the Agri-Food Sector

We know this sector is one of Ontario’s economic engines. To spur growth and meet your Agri-Food Growth Challenge, we created a Growth Steering Committee. At the Premier’s Agri-Food Summit in November, the committee presented their recommendations which focused on three key areas:

  • Increased government and industry promotion of Ontario’s agri-food sector at home and abroad.
  • Stronger advocacy of Ontario’s food processing sector, particularly at the federal level.
  • A focus on medium-sized agri-food businesses to enhance competitiveness.

My ministry has been working to promote, encourage and invest in innovative local food projects including:

  • Committing more than $22 million towards 163 Local Food Fund projects.
  • Releasing the first Local Food Report and establishing aspirational local food goals for food literacy under the Local Food Act.
  • Announcing last October, that Ontario is providing $6 million over three years to increase sales of local food by making it more widely available and building awareness of the variety of food grown and produced in Ontario.

We have been working with industry and partners to address how the ministry can more effectively support clients as they deal with regulatory burden through our Open for Business strategy:

  • We are implementing regulatory changes that allow businesses, such as those in the greenhouse sector, to be more competitive and productive.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has expanded the Open for Business Forum to make doing business easier.

My ministry has identified and acted on opportunities to support the food processing industry and to help farmers enhance their operations:

  • In January, we launched the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, which includes $40 million per year to support businesses, through the Food and Beverage Growth Fund.
  • OMAFRA will be making announcements about funding support for business investments this winter.
  • The renewed $28 million Wine and Grape Strategy is aimed at vineyard improvements, research, marketing, innovation, productivity and increased marketing sales of Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines.
  • Over half of the province’s 140 VQA wineries are selling VQA wines at more than 200 farmers’ markets as part of a pilot program.
  • In April, Minister Chan and I led Ontario’s first agri-food trade mission to China where we promoted trade opportunities with Ontario to more than 300 Chinese companies and officials. I know that you have continued to pursue further trade opportunities during your visit to China last November.

Ensuring Sustainability of Agriculture

  • To preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land, OMAFRA is working with key stakeholders to develop an Agriculture Soils Strategy.
  • OMAFRA is also working to develop a broader Pollinator Health Strategy to strengthen our province’s managed bee and wild pollinator populations.
  • This strategy builds on regulatory changes made in July to the government’s Pesticides Act regarding the use of neonicotinoid insecticide-treated corn and soybean seeds.

Providing Business Supports to Farmers

My ministry has continued to work with the federal government, supported supply management and has amended the Crop Insurance Act to support farmers:

  • My Québec counterpart, Minister Paradis, and I have met several times to discuss trade and the importance of supply management for our two provinces. During the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, I continued to press the federal government to maintain the integrity of the supply management system while also creating new market opportunities for our agri-food sector.
  • The amended Crop Insurance Act opened up eligibility to more commodities for production insurance, including the recently announced Bee Mortality Production Insurance Plan.
  • Since January 2014, Growing Forward 2 provided a total of $50.5 million in cost share funding to over 1,900 projects.

Expanding Agriculture in the North

  • My ministry is working to explore possibilities for agri-food development and growth in the North, and is actively developing a strategy under the Northern Growth Plan.

Fostering Vibrant Rural Communities

  • We are preparing to issue an updated Rural Roadmap that details the progress we have made and outlines the tools, resources and initiatives that we have implemented to support success in rural communities across the province.
  • Through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, we have invested in infrastructure to build rural business success and contribute to economic growth.
  • We are also working to ensure access to less expensive energy, like natural gas, under the Natural Gas Access Loan Program and the Natural Gas Economic Development Grant.
  • Along with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Attorney General, we are working to fully integrate horse racing into the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to ensure its long-term success here in Ontario.

My ministry has worked hard and has had many successes. I look forward to continuing to contribute to our government’s plan to build Ontario up.


Jeff Leal signature

Jeff Leal
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Results achieved

Mandate Letter CommitmentProgress to Date
Continue to support the growth of the agri-food sector, ensure the sustainability of agriculture and help develop rural economies.
  • Since 2013, the renewed Rural Economic Development program has invested more than $30 million in 200 approved projects to support a stronger rural Ontario, generating more than $161 million in local economic activity and resulting in the creation or retention of over 3,000 jobs.
  • The Wine and Grape Strategy will receive $75 million over the next five years.
  • During the minister’s mission to China, $9 million in business deals were announced.
Identifying and acting upon opportunities to support the food processing industry and help farmers enhance their operations, including through the Food Industry Program under the Jobs and Prosperity Fund. I ask that you support the Premier’s Agri-Food Challenge, which calls on the province’s agri-food industry to double its growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by the year 2020.
  • Under the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, $40 million per year will be allocated to support food processing. The Food and Beverage Growth Fund, a stream of the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, was announced in January 2015.
  • On November 18, the Growth Steering Committee provided advice at the Premier’s summit on growth opportunities and proposed better ways to measure growth in the sector.
Promoting, encouraging and investing in innovative local food projects that celebrate the rich diversity of foods produced and made in Ontario, and which feed local economies and help communities grow.
  • Since 2013, the province has committed $22 million to 160 approved Local Food Fund projects.
  • In October 2015, Ontario announced it is providing $6 million over three years to the Greenbelt Fund for programming to increase sales of local food by making it more widely available and building awareness of the variety of food grown and produced in Ontario.
Working with industry and partners to address how the ministry can more effectively support clients as they deal with regulatory burdens.
  • In October 2015, at the ninth Open for Business consultation forum, participants reviewed and discussed a number of regulatory issues across the agri-food sector.
  • As a result of the forum, greenhouse operators received more options to deal effectively with nutrient feed water, and meat regulations were amended to create a more flexible and clear approach to compliance.
Creating and implementing the new Farms Forever Program. The program will help preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land close to major urban centres, support the local sourcing of food, strengthen Ontario’s agri-food sector and support young farmers.
  • The ministry is developing a Farms Forever Framework, implementation plan and communications strategy that will protect Ontario’s farmland, build the capacity and diversity of farmers, and support innovation and new opportunities.
Continuing to work with partner ministers and the agricultural sector to decrease nutrient run-off, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and make our agricultural sector as resilient as possible to climate change.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has provided the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) with a list of ongoing and potential future actions as part of Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.
Strengthening pollinator health. You will work with other ministers and stakeholders to develop a Pollinator Health Strategy for Ontario that includes sustainable, long-term initiatives aimed at improving the health of bees and other pollinators.
  • OMAFRA is engaging and working with partner ministries and stakeholders on the development of a Pollinator Health Action Plan to improve pollinator health and populations.
  • A government-hosted Pollinator Health Action Plan Forum was held in August 2015 to bring together targeted experts and stakeholders to discuss the development of the Pollinator Health Action Plan.
Working with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, other ministers, industry partners and stakeholders, develop an action plan to meaningfully reduce neonicotinoid use for the 2015 growing season, including measurable targets. I also ask that you develop a system that requires a reduction in the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides for the 2016 growing season through regulatory mechanisms, permitting or further measures as needed.
  • On July 1, 2015, new regulatory requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds came into effect, which will reduce use of these treated seeds for the 2016 growing season.
  • An Integrated Pest Management course became available for farmers in November 2015, to ensure environmentally and economically viable management of pests.
Continuing to work with the federal government to implement the Growing Forward 2 initiative and develop Growing Forward 3, the latter calling for predictable, bankable and stable future national business risk management programs.
  • Since January 2014, Growing Forward 2 (GF2) Strategic Initiatives have provided a total of $50.5 million in cost-share funding for over 1,900 projects. This is in addition to ongoing business risk management support.
  • GF2 funding has provided more than $7.4 million to address challenges related to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.
Continuing to support supply management in the province, which helps maintain a stable, quality supply of products for Ontario’s processers and consumers.
  • OMAFRA has advocated that the federal government maintain the framework of Canada’s supply management system in international trade negotiations and agreements at Federal-Provincial-Territorial Forums.
Amending the Crop Insurance Act to enable the province to offer insurance for a broader range of agricultural products, such as bees and livestock. You will also work with the agricultural sector to identify and develop new insurance plans.
  • In May 2015, the Agriculture Insurance Act, 2015 was passed and received Royal Assent. The act was proclaimed on September 1, 2015, and will allow the province to offer production insurance plans for agricultural products beyond crops and perennial plants.
  • A Bee Mortality Production Insurance Plan was launched in September 2015.
  • Several industry groups have expressed an interest in production insurance, and OMAFRA and Agricorp are working with them to understand their needs.
Working with other ministers and partners to explore opportunities to develop the agricultural sector in the North. This approach should prioritize opportunities on private land.
  • Through programs such as Growing Forward 2, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and the Trillium Fund, the province continues to invest in the agriculture, aquaculture and food processing sectors in Northern Ontario.
  • Since October 2013, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation has committed approximately $22 million to agricultural projects in the North.
Working with ministers and partners to continue to engage with rural stakeholders, deliver effective programs — such as the Rural Economic Development Program — and services to rural areas, and move forward with the Rural Roadmap.
  • The Rural Economic Development program was reviewed to ensure it continues to effectively support rural communities and businesses. The program was re-launched on October 2, 2015.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is preparing to issue an updated Rural Roadmap.
Continuing to work with other ministers to support the growth of manufacturing and the digital economy in rural Ontario.
  • The Quinte Economic Development Commission will receive up to $414,000 through the Rural Economic Development program to help grow the region’s manufacturing sector.
  • Connectivity and broadband is an eligible category under the Small Communities Fund, which will fund priority infrastructure projects, including broadband infrastructure in rural Ontario.
Supporting the work of the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Minister of Energy to establish and implement natural gas initiatives. The programs will be funded under our $130-billion infrastructure plan and will give consumers in underserved communities more energy choices, make commercial transportation more affordable, attract new industry to Ontario, and benefit our agricultural producers. Your goal is to help ensure that Ontario residents and industries are able to share in affordable supplies of natural gas.
  • OMAFRA is working with the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (MEDEI) to implement the Natural Gas Access Loan Program ($200 million in loans over two years) and the Natural Gas Economic Development Grant ($30 million) to give communities in underserviced areas more energy choices, to attract new industry, and make commercial transportation and agriculture more affordable.
Continuing to work with other ministers and partners to support a sustainable, customer-responsive horse-racing industry that supports jobs and local economies; and to integrate horse racing within the broader Ontario gaming strategy.
  • The government’s five-year Horse Racing Partnership Plan (HRPP) to support a sustainable industry came into effect on April 1, 2014.
  • In 2015, HRPP is expected to support more than 950 race dates.
  • OMAFRA is working with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Attorney General to proceed with a revised approach and plan to further integrate horse racing into gaming.