Ontario Agriculture

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A recent London Free Press Letter to the Editor has basically backed up what I have been stating for the past few weeks during meetings regarding the state of agriculture in Ontario. The common theme at the meetings has been promotion of "Buy Local". This has been an effective program by the government with the changes of their Foodland Ontario guidelines and the Savour Ontario branding.
It appears as though both non-ag and agricultural people have the thought that promoting the consumer to buy local will save agriculture. My comment has been - so which hog (beef) producers are being asked to leave the industry? We export a lot of produce. In Huron County the majority of what we produce is exported to other counties, provinces, and countries (my soybeans go to Europe for example).
My other comment has been: Who is going to explain to the 1000 people in Huron County that have lost their jobs in the past nine months that they are going to have to pay more for food? Spread that comment across all counties in Ontario because Ontario has been hit particularly hard with the job losses in manufacturing.
So on one hand I may be viewed as Mr. Negativity but I like to look at the bigger picture from outside the box. How is our request going to impact the bottom line at the end of the day - for all producers, big and small, established and beginning?
The letter:
Local produce too costly
I am dreading the winter -- not because of the snow but because of the price and quality of produce.
I have used my gas to drive to rural areas and purchase produce from farmers. They need support. More times than not, I have found the quality lower and the price higher than my local grocer.
I went to a Garlic Festival this year, excited to buy fresh garlic. But not from China. They wanted $2 a clove! Where are we shipping the good stuff -- to China?
In the grocery store, there was a choice of yellow and red peppers from a local farmer for $4. Next to it, peppers from Mexico for much less.
I'm on a tight budget and can't buy vegetables that cost as much as the main course. The bad weather excuse can't be every year. Only the rich will be able to eat healthy soon.
Alexandria Books
London


That being said I think she brings up a more important question: "Only the rich will be able to eat healthy soon." I would add on to that - local or imported healthy food!
So how do we assist the people living in poverty to buy local healthy food?

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I think this topics suffers from generalizations.

But that's O.K..; generalizations are so nice to deal in because they allow me to reply with an answer like - "by leaving the smokes and cases of pop in the store and instead spending that money on food"!
Buying local IS a good idea. For one thing, it's more nutritious when it's fresh, and has been picked at the peak of ripeness thereby retaining more nutrients. However, it is unreasonable to think we can ONLY buy local, that's not realistic. As for produce coming in from our trading partners, and being sold much less than our own Ontario product that is an easy one to answer. Canada has very high standards for food production. Many of our standards have been imposed by way of government rules and regulations to keep the people we feed healthy! For decades Farmers have absorbed the cost of keeping your food supply safe and healthy. It is very expensive to produce safe, healthy, nutritious food, and Farmers are NOT in a position to pass our costs along to the consumer. Now back to cheap food--many of our trading partners do NOT FOLLOW the same farming practices that Ontario Farmers ARE REQUIRED TO ADHERE TO. We must follow strict Human Rights rules: $9.50/hour, provide housing, heat, transportation, etc.; pesticide use in Ontario (contrary to popular belief) is very prohibitive both cost-wise and effective-wise; fertilizer continues to increase yearly; many of the Farmers I know use IPM (integrated pest management--scouts) so we reduce pesticide use considerably--this is not a free service. I could go on and on. So when you are comparing Mexican peppers to Ontario peppers, try to remember the worker who picked the Mexican peppers was only paid $4.00 for the entire day! Canadians have been grossly underpaying for their food for years. Perhaps that's why the average age of a Farmer is 57, and our children are not willing to continue this noble profession!!

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