WOODSTOCK – Premier Doug Ford said Ontario needs a strong partnership with the United States on trade during a chat Tuesday with agricultural leaders at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.Ford, joined at this opening-day roundtable by Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, invited feedback from the industry on the current state of agriculture, its labour shortages and ongoing trade disruptions affecting farmers.“The focus of this meeting is to discuss your current situation in light of the trade disruption and to help understand what is needed to help you,” Oxford MPP Hardeman said.About two-dozen industry leaders from the dairy, pork, beef, grain and aqua-culture sectors, among many others, attended the meeting.The roundtable discussion about the challenges facing the agricultural industry, however, was not open to the media. Premier Doug Ford greets farming industry representatives during a discussion on current challenges in agriculture at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show on Sept. 10, 2019. (Kathleen Saylors/Woodstock Sentinel-Review) In his opening remarks, though, Ford made a point to contrast the farmers sitting around the table with people in the downtown Toronto’s “bubble.”“I wish I could bring every single person from the City of Toronto to this show here and show them what high-tech equipment the farming industry is using now,” Ford said. “Honestly. the majority of people don’t have a clue. … I love getting out of the bubble and meeting the real folks.“I don’t think some of these folks understand how important farming is. I think people take it for granted. They go to the store see the shelves stocked and think it all of a sudden appears there.”One in eight jobs in Ontario is in the agricultural sector, Ford added, speaking specifically to the importance of Canadian farming in trade with the United States and ongoing trade disruptions.“If Canada and the U.S. and Mexico, to a degree, if we all work together, everyone benefits,” the Progressive Conservative premier said. “As soon as we start putting up barriers on both sides of the border, it doesn’t work. … I think it is critical we move forward with a strong partnership with the U.S..”Hardeman also used the opportunity to introduce a new program that aims to help Ontario farmers reach new markets. Supported through the five-year Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the Market Access Initiative will help farmers diversify where their products go through marketing and business planning, for example.“It will open doors and … drive further innovation in the sector,” Hardeman said.The Tuesday afternoon roundtable was part of the opening day of the three-day outdoor farm show, the country’s largest agricultural trade show. In addition to the premier’s visit and the day’s opening ceremonies, visitors to the sprawling Woodstock site could enjoy equipment, field and livestock demonstrations, as well as mingle with the hundreds of exhibitors.

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