The agri-food industry is set for exciting developments in 2016. The recent change in government has brought a renewed political focus on Growing Forward 2 (GF2), the policy framework for the agriculture and agri-food sectors first announced in 2013. Applications for project funding are being accepted in early 2016, so it is not too late to consider whether this opportunity is a good fit for your organization.

GF2 was first announced in 2013. The GF2 provides $3 billion in joint funding from the governments of Canada as well as all provinces and territories over a five-year period. The purpose of GF2 is to provide businesses and organizations with funding to encourage innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada's agricultural and agri-food sector. The money has been split between federal programs ($1 billion) and cost-shared programs delivered by provincial and territorial governments ($2 billion).

Your business may be eligible for funding under GF2, either federally or at the provincial/territorial level. Each jurisdiction offers different programs, in Ontario, for example, GF2 funding can be allocated to producers, processors and organizations/collaborations. Producers include farms, aquaculture producers, and horse breeders. Processors include manufacturers of agricultural commodities, food, beverages or agri-based bioproducts in Ontario (but excludes, for example, restaurants and retail food service). Organizations and collaborations are entities involved in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based bioproducts sector and are capable of entering into a contract, including academic institutions, not-for-profit associations and for-profit businesses.

In Ontario, the funding for processors, producers and organizations/collaborators is only available for specified categories of programs, which include environmental and climate change adaptation, animal and planet health, assurance systems upgrades (food safety, traceability and animal welfare), market development, labour productivity enhancements, and business and leadership development. In Ontario, application due dates are set for early February 2016, and in other provinces some deadlines have already passed, so now is the time to act! 

If you meet the criteria listed above, it is not too late to decide whether applying for cost-shared funding is an opportunity you might want to explore. And even if you opt-out this year, there have already been rumours of a Growing Forward 3. So, if you do not have a chance to take a closer look at this worthwhile opportunity this round, definitely keep it in mind for the next set of funding.