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Restructuring OFA names new top brass

Bette Jean Crews, a Trenton, Ont. crop producer, has been elected unopposed as president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Crews was named to the post for 2009 at the OFA’s annual general meeting in Toronto, replacing Geri Kamenz, a livestock and crop producer from Spencerville who retires after two years in the chair.

Delegates from the 38,000-member OFA re-elected Don McCabe, a crop producer from Inwood, to one of two vice-presidents’ posts, and elected Mark Wales, a hort crop and tobacco grower from Elgin County and previously a member of the OFA executive committee, to the other vice-president’s post.

The OFA board also re-elected goat dairy operator Wendy Omvlee to a third term as a member of the executive committee.

Delegates at the OFA convention also elected three directors at large to go with the 15 zone directors elected earlier this fall. The new directors are Joe Dickenson of Lambton County, Larry Davis of Brant County and Peter Lambrick of Halton Region.

The completion of the 18-member board wraps up a restructuring process that began in 2005 when the delegates resolved to look at reducing what was then a 110-member board.

The new structure also led to the creation of a policy advisory council (PAC) which is to meet at least four times per year to discuss and develop policy based on input from OFA members. The PAC’s recommendations would then go to the board for review and action. PAC members have been elected at the county level, much like the previous board was chosen.

Young farmers

In an address on the OFA’s website, Crews said the convention’s “most predominant” topic for discussion involved new and beginning farmers and obstacles they face. “Our convention heard that many of the barriers faced by new and beginning farmers are the direct result of government red tape and reluctance to improve the situation,” she said.

To help develop policy and program suggestions on those issues, the new OFA board approved spending up to $5,000 to send an Ontario delegation to the Young Farmers Summit of the Americas, Dec. 7-13 in Calgary.

Among other issues, Crews said, “OFA is prepared to continue its efforts to get provincial government reform for property tax issues for the farming sector. These are not new concerns, but the province continues to drag its feet as we strive to get fairness worked into the tax system.”

Kamenz, in a final commentary on the OFA site, said the federation has had “considerable success” dealing with public policy at the provincial level during 2008. “Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government have shown encouraging interest in responding to issues raised by OFA and the province’s farmers,” he said.

“Governments are now recognizing the value of their strategic investments in agriculture and the stability those investments generate on the farm and in the rural communities. The results are tangible: employment created, stimulating growth in Ontario’s economy and benefits to people well beyond the farm.”

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