Chamber CEO Gerry Macartney delivers opening address to the annual meeting of the Ontario Federation of Agriculutre
You know – In thinking about my talk today, it struck me that my theme should be titled: “We are not Together”
The we being organizations like ours and the Canadian Chamber, the Conference Board, CD Howe and organizations like yours, the OFA, the CFA and many others
Here’s why I think that. The OCC sponsored the Ontario Economic Summit Regional leadership series around province – 8 in total including London and 7 other communities. (Niagara, Hamilton, Peterborough, Northern Ontario, the GTA, Eastern Ontario)
Only ours, the SW Ont. group listed Agriculture as a competitive advantage??? Are you kidding me – “We are not Together”
Then in thinking about London and our relationship to Agriculture I thought – Yes we have members, i.e. Casco, Kellogg, Cargil, Cuddy Farms, Labatt, McCormick, (Club House), Dr. Oetker, the Cakery and the list goes on. These are world class businesses. And yes, we gladly take their membership cheques but we don’t really talk about their issues, their challenges, or opportunities. “We are not really Together”We used to have award winning Agriculture committees, Agriculture awards, The Farmer of the Year, the Celebration of Ontario Food event that would attract thousands
Then we got pissy with each other because the various boards got pissy with each other, i.e. wheat, dairy, chicken, beef, pork and we walked away to let them duke it out. They didn’t come back.
“AND WE ARE STILL Not Together”
Well some would say who cares? And the answer of course is – we all should care
We need to fix this, and it needs to start soon
AGRICULTURE is too big, too important, and too much of a competitive advantage for us to ignore any more
Here are some numbers to support why I should care about AG in our London market as a business case
We have the raw materials: Middlesex County alone contains more than 2,600 farms on more than 620,000 acres
We have Demand for products: London is an urban centre located in the heart of Ontario farming country. 150 million people live within a one day drive of London. Talk about being in the strategic “Catbird Seat”
We have Distribution: NAFTA superhighways 401/402 pass right through us on route to Windsor/Detroit, Buffalo/Niagara, Sarnia/Port Huron and Toronto.
We have the Environmental Advantage: London has an excellent and abundant fresh water supply from both lakes Erie and Huron.
We are in Canada which is the fourth largest agri-food exporter in the world and exports more than US$20.3 billion worth of food products every year to more than 175 countries.
STILL THINKING ABOUT LONDON’S BUSINESS CASE: Here’s more FAST FACTS
3,200 people are employed in both crop and animal production within the London CMA.
There are 455 companies producing crops and 757 companies producing animals in the London CMA.
The London CMA food and beverage processing industry consists of 87 companies employing 7,000 workers.
One in four of the world’s turkeys are hatched by Cuddy Farms, headquartered in the London region. One in four turkeys….we’ll maybe that’s one I shouldn’t be that proud of
The University of Western Ontario in London is home to the Centre for Human Nutrition and The Department of Plant Sciences
Ontario in particular has five key advantages over our competitors in AG, they include:
# 1 – SAFE, HIGH QUALITY FOOD
We have access to an abundant supply of high-quality, competitively priced ingredients, fresh water and land – an internationally recognized food inspection system – a commitment to employ food safety systems and standards
# 2 – WE ARE THE GATEWAY TO THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET
Under (NAFTA), Canadian agriculture and agri-food companies enjoy duty free and open access to a North American market. This means a consumer base of nearly 400 million people with a combined GDP of more than US$11.4 trillion
# 3 – WE HAVE LOW BUSINESS COSTS
KPMG’s 2010 business cost study clearly demonstrates that Canada’s business costs are the lowest among
the G-7 with a 5% advantage over the United States.
# 4 – WE HAVE LEADING EDGE SCIENCE & INNOVATION
KPMG’s study reports that Canada is a leader in terms of research and development with a 12.9% cost advantage over the U.S. Canada offers an extremely supportive tax environment for R&D which is the most generous in the industrialized world.
# 5 – WE HAVE ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION
As environmental stewards, Ontario farmers are moving proactively to: Integrate environmental considerations into their day-to-day planning
And With all of that still “We are not Together”
So why are we not together? I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do know if I start by doing something I might be able to convince others. So………………….
Here are ten things that we at the London Chamber will do to change that.
We will aggressively embrace the Agriculture sector by recruiting reps from farmers to food processors to help populate our Boards and Committees because that’s where the work gets done.
We will include an Agricultural focus in our policy work at all three levels of government because it is a competitive advantage
In the future we will host an annual celebration of Agriculture in London with a focus on local, fresh, and healthy foods
We will drive change at the OCC and CCC to include Agriculture as a key competitive advantage
We will include the Agricultural advantage in our Global efforts to expand export markets for our members and attract more FDI to London. We have been to China twice and we are heading for Brazil
We will include the Agriculture sector in our annual issues survey to determine what is impacting them and where we may be able to add our voices
We will expose our membership to keynote addresses form leaders in the Agriculture sector to better understand their issues
We will take the lead on developing exclusive supply agreements with local food processors and suppliers for our catering and banquet requirements
We will make a concerted effort to better understand the needs of the Agriculture sector vs. the wants of the development sector
And finally, we will work closely with groups like the Western Fair Association to forge better relations with the Agriculture community through initiatives like DistrictlyBusiness, Funny Business and support for their work with their Ag sector partners such as OLG.
Ladies and gentlemen – we know it’s going to take hard work and a lot of innovation and let me leave you with this story of innovation from the Agriculture sector and how innovation will be the ultimate driver of change.
Researchers at Western have revealed that they discovered the gene that has allowed them to produce additional limbs on ground foul.
And, at their experimental farm just outside London, we have learned that they have successfully bred the world’s first three-legged chickens and now have over 2000 of the birds.
I am told that this new breed can actually run at speeds clocked at 50 miles per hour and for shorter distances they can actually reach speeds of 70 miles per hour.
I asked the head researcher Dr. Warren Thompson, why they had chosen to breed a three legged chicken and guess what.
He tells me that the net yield by weight on these new breeds can produce as much as 35% more edible meat and therefore 35% more profit for breeders.
I asked the Dr. Thompson if there was any difference in taste with these birds vs. conventional chickens
The Dr. replied “Don’t know, haven’t caught one yet.”
Thanks so much for listening and if we do nothing else, can we please “Get Together”