By John Clement
May 6, 2011
Now that the election signs are being gathered up and put away for another four years, it’s time to consider some of the implications of a majority Conservative government for Canadian agriculture. And nothing may be a greater opportunity for farmers than a commitment by the newly-elected Conservative government to create a new national farm and food strategy to guide and support agriculture over the next few years.
The commitment to a new farming and food strategy is included in the Conservative election platform, along with commitments to expand international markets for farmers, to revise current approval processes for imported farm inputs, to support supply management and to continue to allow Western farmers to market grain on the open market. The details on the strategy are sketchy, but the election platform states that it will “sustain the Canadian family farm, strengthen food safety, and open new markets for the world-class products of Canadian farmers.”
Time will tell whether or not the commitment to a farming and food strategy is window dressing or has real substance. But there should be no shortage of input from groups wanting to influence the new government on what it will take to create a viable strategy. In fact, the issuing of reports and strategies on the future direction of farming and food has become somewhat of a growth industry within public interest groups, culminating in a broad movement that has influenced all of the major political parties.
The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has been active within the farming and food strategy movement and recently published a document entitled Goals for an Ontario Food Strategy. We invite the Conservative government to consider framing its federal strategy with the following approach, taken from our document:
· The overarching goals of the strategy need to focus on developing and maintaining a profitable food chain where every segment can prosper. The strategy needs to connect the needs of consumers and producers together, particularly the links between health and food. Sustainable agriculture – economically, environmentally, and socially – must lie at the heart of the strategy. Finally, a foundation of market-based excellence must be built on, within a regulatory regime that works for business. It must focus on local production first, exporting to the world second. Government needs to be a partner in this arrangement, building capacity and enabling innovation.
Crafting an effective national farming and food strategy is no small feat. But if the Conservative government gets it right, we all stand to benefit. Let’s be active in encouraging our new federal government to provide a farming and food strategy of substance that will create continued prosperity in the coming years.
John Clement is the General Manager of 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 .