October 29th, 2021
Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Division
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Subject: Input for the Next Policy Framework for the Maple Sector in Ontario
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Next Policy Framework Consultations. As you may know, our association is undertaking a new Sector Development project that will culminate in a new strategic plan. So, this is excellent timing.
I. Overall Top Priority for the Next Policy Framework:
The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association’s view is that climate change adaptation and mitigation will be our top priority over the coming years. We will need to increase technology development and the funding programs related to the transition to a different climate and a new low carbon economy.
II. Current and Emerging Challenges for the Maple Products Sector pressure for the Maple Products Sector:
The following are our sector’s current and emerging challenges:
Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change
We anticipate that climate change will have an increasingly negative impact on the maple products sector in Ontario. Studies suggest that the maple season will be shorter, and that the sugar content of the sap will decline, and that severe weather events will increase in frequency. (A recent example of a severe weather event affecting our sector is the loss of 20,000 producing maple trees on St. Joseph’s Island in the Algoma district this summer due to a micro-burst.)
Generally, climate change will push the "sweet spot" for our industry northward putting pressure on the viability of operations in affected parts of the province. All parts of the province will suffer with less predictable seasons and therefore yields.
We foresee an increasing demand for science, technology transfer and training to help mitigate, adjust to, and manage the risk related to the emerging climate and environmental realities.
We also see for opportunities arising in carbon services provided by our sugar bushes.
Food Safety and Food Quality
We fully recognize that it’s about consumers, their safety and satisfaction, and our sector’s reputation. While there are existing regulations (Ontario Regulation 119/11) in place, there are insufficient resources in OMAFRA to implement and enforce these regulations. OMSPA is anxious to work with OMAFRA to find innovative ways to address this situation. We are supportive of tracking and traceability and third party validation.
The Maple Products Sector is a great Ontario economic development story waiting to be fully written. From a study that OMSPA produced with the support of OMAFRA, we learned that Ontario has more accessible maple trees (accessible by road and electricity) than does the Province of Quebec. Quebec produces 92% of the maple products in Canada, so Ontario has a great potential to grow. Unfortunately, in the past, our sector has not partnered with government on economic development: this is unlike other Ontario Agricultural Commodity organizations, this is also unlike maple sectors in other jurisdictions across North America. We take responsibility for this, and this must change.
Studies of maple producers in Ontario show that, like many other commodity groups, large numbers of participants in our industry are reaching retirement age. Unfortunately, a majority of these producers lack a succession plan. We need to find ways to attract new and younger producers to our industry or it will begin to whither in Ontario.
III. Opportunities to re-balance funding between programs to better support the Ontario agricultural sector:
We recommend developing programs and funding to strengthen agricultural commodity organizations (staff and leadership training) to transition their industries to the new climate reality.
Support for the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association
Due to the historical nature of how our organization was formed we only have the ability to charge voluntary membership fees. These fees only allow us to hire a person half time. Other farm commodity organizations, which make similar sized contributions to the economy, because of their different funding models can hire 5 to 6 people full time.
This funding model means we do not have the critical mass of staff to capture the economic potential of the maple products sector in Ontario, such as growing domestic and international markets, and engaging & developing the value-chain; let alone managing the changes to the industry resulting from the impact of climate change.
We need the full membership of all who produce maple products, as well as other sources of revenues such as: monetizing carbon services, and an opportunity to manage and be compensated for administrating programs formerly or currently managed by OMAFRA and other Government of Ontario Departments. Maple Products Organizations in other jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. have made similar arrangements with their governments to do this as have other agricultural commodity organizations in Ontario.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process. We very much want to be involved in the next stage of consultations.
Ontario Maple Syrup Producers' Association