Advancing the Ontario Organic Products Act: Recap of OCO’s AGM and Organic Day 2020

Organic Council of Ontario Organic Day group photo in front of the main legislative building

On March 11, 2020, the Organic Council of Ontario held our Annual General Meeting and Organic Day at Queen’s Park. The purpose of the day was to raise awareness about the state of organics in Ontario, meet with MPPs to share organic priorities and advocate for the passage of Bill 54 (The Organic Products Act), and bring together all involved in Ontario’s organic industry to collaborate on the path forward. 

Annual General Meeting and Election of OCO’s 2020-21 Board of Directors

The day started off bright and early with OCO’s Annual General Meeting, including an update on OCO’s activities and financials over the past year, and the election of OCO’s 2020-21 Board of Directors. 

OCO Board of Directors at the 2020 AGM (L to R: Ben Cullen, Jill Baxter, Norm Hansen, Rob Wallbridge, Joel Aitken, Bill Redelmeier, Ruvena Buslovich).

This year, three new members were elected to the Board. We also saw the re-election of five existing board members. A warm welcome to our newest board members: Ruth Knight, Ben Cullen, and Justin Bell. We also welcome back Rob Wallbridge, Bill Redelmeier, Joel Aitken, David Cohlmeyer, and Simon Jacques. Thank you to our outgoing board members Catriona Ffrench, Thorsten Arnold, and Thomas Booijink for all their contributions and guidance over the past few years.

The State of Ontario Organic

Following the AGM, attendees heard from speakers on the state of organics in Canada and Ontario, and the path forward for growing the organic sector, including the need to establish stable funding and organic regulation.

The State of Organics: Federal-Provincial-Territorial Performance Review

Brian Lemon, Manager of Policy and Research at the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), gave attendees an overview of COTA’s latest State of Organics: Federal-Provincial-Territorial Performance Review. The full report will be available from COTA’s website in the spring. Brian reported that although progress is slow, there are some successes, as six provinces now have organic regulation. Unsurprisingly to those in the audience, Ontario is still behind. Brian also gave an update on COTA’s ongoing work to support Canada’s maintenance and negotiations of new organic trade equivalency arrangements. Arrangements are in progress for South Korea and Mexico, and there is a planned expansion of scope to include livestock products for our equivalency arrangement with Japan.

Leveling the Playing Field: Grow Ontario Organic

The Organic Council of Ontario’s Rebecca Minielly gave a presentation on why and how we need stable funding to help grow the Ontario organic sector. There are significant jurisdictional differences between Ontario and places like Quebec and the United States, where there is greater government support for organic producers. OCO’s Sector-Wide Report identified key priorities for the sector to overcome the challenges of transitioning to and expanding organic operations in Ontario. Read more and endorse our proposal to help grow the organic sector.

Ontario Organic Regulation

The Organic Council of Ontario’s Tom Piekarski provided an update to members about organic regulation in Ontario. In 2018, MPP Jim McDonell introduced Private Member’s Bill 54 (Organic Products Act, 2018), which passed second reading in November 2018 and is currently at the Committee of the Whole House. To date, six other provinces have adopted organic regulation. The Ontario Auditor General’s 2019 Annual Report also recommended that Ontario “consider having organic food produced and consumed in Ontario certified to the federal Canadian Organic Standards.”

Ontario Organic Fact Sheet

Learn more in our Fact Sheet about the Ontario Organic Products Act, the economic opportunity for organic, and how we can grow Ontario organic.

Making the Case for Organic Regulation

OCO Members meet with Minister Ernie Hardeman and MPP Jim McDonell

In the afternoon, attendees met with 25 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) to outline organic issues, including calling on them to take action to help pass the Organic Products Act. Included in our afternoon meetings was a face-to-face with Hon. Minister Ernie Hardeman, Minister for Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and MPP Jim McDonell, who sponsored Bill 54 (Organic Products Act, 2018). The Minister has asked us to prepare a proposal and budget for what the organic regulation might look like in practice, keeping in mind the need to protect small-scale producers and consumers. We are currently working on this proposal and if you are interested in participating in this process, please email Tom.

Recognizing the Bounty of Ontario Organic

Welcome remarks from MPP Jim McDonell (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry)

MPPs also joined us for a local organic reception at Queen’s Park to celebrate the bounty of Ontario’s organic producers and food businesses. Members from all four parties gave remarks at the reception and expressed their strong support for the organic sector, including MPP Jim McDonell (PC, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry), MPP John Vanthof (NDP, Timiskaming—Cochrane), MPP Mike Schreiner (Green, Guelph) and MPP John Fraser (Liberal, Ottawa South). 

Participants enjoyed a delicious spread of organic foods for breakfast, lunch and the reception, meticulously prepared by Hearty Catering, with ingredients donated by OCO’s generous members. Thank you to all our donors and sponsors who helped to make this day possible:

Grow Sponsors

Seed Sponsors

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Capella Meadows
Cambrian Solutions
Emerald Grasslands
Ecological Farmers’ Association of Ontario (EFAO)
Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables

King’s Lock Craft Distillery
Little Stream Bakery
Mill Street Brewery
Organic Crop Improvement Association
Organic Meadow
The Big Carrot


Explore photos from the event on our Flickr page:

AGM & Organic Day 2020

Add Your Voice

Our work is not over yet, and we need your help to make sure the government prioritizes organic in Ontario:

  • Email, tweet, or phone your MPP. Tell them why you support legislation to regulate Organic in Ontario.
    • Find their contact info here.
    • Or write directly through our website.
  • Talk with your customers, suppliers, business partners, and greater network. Help educate your network about the need for clear and consistent regulation in Ontario.
  • Share your story. How and why did you get certified? Tell us about it. We’ll share your story with our networks!
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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