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The CFFO Commentary: Growing Forward 2 needs a Family Farm Focus

By Nathan Stevens
April 29, 2011
The CFFO brought forward a number of key messages during a recent dialogue between farmers and the federal government on Growing Forward 2, Canada’s next agriculture policy framework. Many of these important messages lie outside the limited scope the federal government wants to look at, but they are issues that need to be addressed for the good of Ontario farmers.
The current directions outlined in Growing Forward 2 fail to identify the importance of the family farm as the foundation of agriculture. Our organization believes that all policies and programs should be designed with moderate-scale, production-oriented family farms in mind. The family farm does not need to be protected in legislation, but the programming and regulatory environment that unfolds under Growing Forward 2 must be tested against the impact that it will have on family farms across this country.
The CFFO strongly believes that a food strategy will improve the agriculture and agri-food sector in Canada. There is a growing recognition of the importance of the tie between food, health, and the environment all people share. A broad-based food strategy could result in farmers playing a key role but there needs to be capacity building and compensation for the efforts that farmers put forward for the benefit of all of society.
Our government and industry leaders need to realize that the sector’s single most important market is Canada itself. Therefore, first and foremost, strengthening a base of excellence in domestic production should be the highest priority of the sector. While the sector has been focused on exporting there has been a failure to maintain market share at home. In a global environment, it is more important than ever to be competitive at home, and then export to the world.
Agristability is failing to provide the necessary support that many farm operations need in Ontario. The particular problems faced across Canadian agriculture are diverse and there is a need for the provinces to be able to design and implement programs that address these needs using federal dollars. Strong guidelines that minimize the risk of countervail and other negative trade actions and payment caps should apply to all these programs.
Finally, if part of being competitive is being responsive to consumer demands, then it may be necessary to improve the way the agri-food sector communicates with consumers through labeling. Country of Origin and the presence of genetically modified organisms are food concerns where it is essential that consumers have choice in their purchasing decisions.
The CFFO has key concerns regarding Growing Forward 2 that need to be addressed in order to help farmers of all scales of production. We hope that government policy makers will consider these concerns as the development of Growing Forward 2 continues in the future.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.

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