By Mark Wales, Vice President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The Globe and Mail recently published a poignant feature on eight key issues Canadians need to talk about now to become leaders for the future. One of which is the future of food.
The series tackled sensitive food topics in Canada, such as lack of foreign food inspections, country of origin labelling, corporate buyouts for family farms, genetic modification and the local food movement. The area most concerning however asked whether Canada is equipped to maintain its position as a leading agricultural supplier.
Agriculture has always been a thriving industry in Canada, with our farmers being recognized as leaders in the agriculture sector globally. But over the past 15 years, that image has changed. Canada has dropped from third to ninth as a global food exporter and Brazil recently replaced Canada as the third largest exporter of agricultural product behind the U.S. and the European Union.
Another concern is Canada’s strengthening dollar. Rising dollar value in Canada is causing our farmers to lose market share in the global agriculture economy and the debt-to-loan ratio for farmers is rising as a result.
The time is now to start implementing solutions that will safeguard our agriculture sector and food supply to reinstate Canada’s role as a global food producer.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is working closely with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to establish new opportunities to secure Canada’s agriculture future through the National Food Strategy. The objectives of the Strategy are to begin building a profitable foundation for the future of our farm sector now to ensure that we have plans in place for tackling larger populations and resulting food shortages in the future. At this stage public consultation is vital in order to reduce red-tape in the government regulatory process, influence technology innovations, and identify opportunities to promote Canada’s products as the foremost choice for Canadian dinner tables. We aim to have a working National Food Strategy available within a year that will be used by government and the agri-food sector when creating new policies that will secure a profitable and sustainable future for Canadian farmers.
The CFA recently launched www.nationalfoodstrategy.ca to provide Canadians with an outline of the National Food Strategy and a clear vision for what it could achieve for the agriculture community.
We also have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of food in Canada. Too often, we take our food supply for granted thinking food will always be available to feed our nation. However, a predicted population boom to 9.2 billion by 2050 will result in a mass food shortage around the world – this is a call-to-action to find ways to add more value to our food supply today, and bring more attention to the potential food shortage of the future.
If we continue to collaborate with our partners and work together to establish a vision for Canada’s future, we have the potential to make a significant contribution to Canada’s role as a top food producer globally.
For those who have not had a chance to see the “Time to Lead” series, we encourage you to visit the Globe and Mail online to view videos, read the articles and see comments from Canadians on the issue. It’s time to ask yourself what kind of future you envision for you and your family. It’s not enough to sit back and wait for catastrophe before we act. The time is now to find new avenues together to secure a sustainable future for farming.