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Ontario Federation of Agriculture wants national strategy

Nov. 9, 2009 -Ontario Federation of Agriculture president, Bette Jean Crews, is urging farm organizations to work with government, consumers, food processors and distributors to develop a National Food Strategy, to help overcome consumer apathy and frustration among those in rural Canada.


November 10, 2009
By Ontario Federation of Agriculture/AgriLink

Nov. 9, 2009

Bette Jean Crews, OFA president

Canadian farm leaders and farm business owners have become increasingly frustrated at the federal and provincial levels of government with the lack of coordinated and functional agricultural policies that adequately serve the needs of constituents.

It is perceived generally as a laissez-faire attitude on the part of governments – seeming to believe that farming and food production will always be in Ontario and across Canada and therefore needs little attention.

This attitude may prevail due to the reduction of the political strength of the shrinking number of farmers and/or the strong desire of governments to divert fiscal resources elsewhere. The two options are not unrelated.

The apathy and overall ignorance of our consumers about food production and food issues feeds this political malaise. The apathy is borne from grocery store shelves brimming with abundance and disposable income sufficient to purchase the low cost products from around the world. Why would consumers perceive any potential problems? The grocery stores produce more than enough food to feed all of us!

The result of inattention to food production issues is a series of agricultural policies that may or may not be serving the best interests of current farming business, but which, at worst, simply offer no future direction to the industry. There is no particular objective, no vision and no stated intention of the programs other than to maybe provide for immediate (but not necessarily predictable) income stabilization or environmental stewardship, to name two issues.

In short, Canada has no comprehensive strategy for agriculture and food production now nor into the future. This has farms floundering and trying, as individual businesses, to make decisions in a vacuum based exclusively on short-term priorities and personal reading of political winds.

The situation is intolerable from a business perspective. More so, it is simply incomprehensible, in this age of global instability, climate change and political uncertainty, that a nation would not have a strategy to ensure its citizens will have food tomorrow and beyond.

The strategy needs to be developed by farm organizations in collaboration with government, consumers, food processors and distributors.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture recognizes Ontario and Canadian agriculture is at a crossroad. It is critical that we establish sound and forward looking strategies for food production that will assure Ontario farms continue to feed Ontarians and ignite our Ontario economy.

Therefore, the OFA is initiating this process through its Policy Advisory Council. At regionally based meetings in January, OFA members will open the debate on what a National Food Strategy should look like – what principles should our strategy embrace? Do we want to ensure food security? How can we delicately balance our needs for food, fibre and fuel? What will the farm and farm business of the future look like?

This is a tall order and a particularly difficult debate but it is one that is necessary. We invite all Ontario farmers to start considering the key issues that need to be addressed in an overall strategy – what should agriculture look like in our future and in our children’s future?

Only by going through this difficult assignment will we be assured that there is opportunity for our children to farm and for Ontarians to continue to enjoy healthy and nutritious food.