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National food policy needed to sustain local food


September 7, 2011
By Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association

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August 31, 2011, Guelph,
Ont – Preserving farmland in Ontario’s Greenbelt is a great first step in
supporting local food production, but it’s not enough to keep farms
sustainable, says a new study.

August 31, 2011, Guelph,
Ont – Preserving farmland in Ontario’s Greenbelt is a great first step in
supporting local food production, but it’s not enough to keep farms
sustainable, says a new study.

Land preservation
activities must be supported by a national food policy that promotes locally
grown food and regional food infrastructure. Another important component is
business risk management programming supported by all levels of government.

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“Canada is the only G-20
country without a national food policy, and in a global marketplace, our
farmers need business risk management programs to protect them against factors
beyond their control that affect their prices, “ says Brian Gilroy, chair of
the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA), which commissioned
the study. “ Protecting farmland from development is a good start, but this
report clearly shows that we also have to make sure that this land can continue
to be part of food production and that we have policies in place to support
farming.”

Provincially, the study
recommends Ontario should reduce and streamline its regulations to make it less
burdensome for farmers to be in compliance, or failing that, establish a
support program that would assist farmers with compliance. The provincial
government should also expand the definition of primary agriculture for
property taxation purposes to include on-farm value-retention activities, and
identify specialty crop areas that would protect fruit and vegetable production
lands.

The report recommends
that municipalities improve their planning processes to avoid or reduce
fragmentation of farmland and to consider the long-term impact of development
decisions on agricultural areas. Farmers, too, have a role to play, including
building stronger relationships with local food organizations and advocates,
investing in research into new crops and making greater use of the business
opportunities presented by farmers' markets.

“There are many great
initiatives out there that promote local food production, but what’s needed is
a coordinated and cohesive approach that involves all levels of government and
the food production chain working together,” says Gilroy. “Consumers can also
support fruit and vegetable farmers by continuing to ask for and buy the
produce that we grow right here in Ontario.”

The report was prepared
by Planscape Inc. with funding provided by the Friends of the Greenbelt
Foundation
.


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