Monday, April 26, 2010

A Bit O' Farm Policy

Iggy appeals to rural Canada:

Canada needs a national food policy that emphasizes locally grown products and healthier food for children, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday.

And from the press release:

Environmental farmland stewardship, by strengthening Environmental Farm Plans, improving fertilizer and pesticide management, and rewarding farmers for their role in clean energy production and protecting wildlife habitat;

Not really an area where I have much expertise, but it seems to me that the appeal to buying locally, insofar as it has any appeal to farmers, would appeal primarily to small farmers. For a 1,000 acre outfit growing wheat and etc., selling to the local market would presumably be an negligible part of their business. Which perhaps means appealing to the kind of hobby farmers we have here in rural Ontario, or perhaps Que. or B.C., but not the big guys on the prairies.

As to "rewarding farmers for their role in clean energy production", I hope this doesn't mean more ethanol subsidies.

PS. From the details doc:

Further, as part of the Liberal commitment to quadruple Canada’s clean energy production, a Liberal government will invest significantly in the development of clean energy from Canadian farms – biomass, wind, solar and geothermal energy.

So a bit more than ethanol subsidies.


WesternGrit said...

We've been asking for this for some time. Glad the party apparati is listening to the grassroots... Here's a post from WesternGrit from some time ago, highlighting the need for the "specific areas" focus in rural Canada...

Ti-Guy said...

I'm not sure what the federal government can do; provincially Quebec has a good model whereby it touts different local foods as they come into season *and* I imagine, helps out with distribution.

For example, in Quebec, you have strawberry season every year, where you can buy local strawberries (which are vastly superior to the imported kind) and you can buy them everywhere. Of course, a big part of this change would require getting used to eating foods when they're in season, something people aren't that aware of anymore.

Niles said...

Actually, I think it would apply to Westerners as well, given the blurrier line between rural and urban interests compared to TO. A lot of people don't *want* to leave the land. They just have trouble making it financially viable to stay on the farm.

At least one former Sask neighbour turned to organic grain/flour production and now supplies local supermarkets, and at least one traditional high plains 'grain' crop (ricegrass) known to the Nations before Europeans has recently been successfully commercialized in Montana. Oooold grains, new crops, new methods of tillage, etc. Farmers will change if they can survive on the proceeds.

The tough part is developing markets, but the 100mile and 500mile diet programs have highlighted what isn't being produced locally in a lot of places and the arguments are starting in earnest about what that means.

There are more visible truck farm suppliers springing up around Calgary. There are also pushes to increase commercial production of traditional prairie fruit crops like saskatoons, which grow in big windbreak rows. So, food and micro-climate in one.

The internet really helps publicize what's coming 'online' in the area. Some people take "their" producers realllly personally.

In city, our local Co-ops are being nudged to point out what is produced provincially and regionally and the City of Calgary is doing pilot projects of planting prairie fruit trees for urban community orchard harvesting.

We even have a backyard chicken grower guy running for mayor, so I expect to hear a lot more about shifting of priorities about food and farming relationships.