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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Protecting and promoting the family farm

Protecting and promoting the family farm

February 27th, 2012
For too long government practices and programs have favoured large corporate-owned agribusinesses over the family farm.
Farmers tell us that a one-size-fits-all regulations regime meant for large corporate-owned agribusinesses have made it difficult for family-owned and organic farms to compete. The imbalance of regulations for Canadian food production versus the food produced outside our borders is also undermining family and organic farms.
As a result we are losing more and more family owned and run farms and fewer and fewer young people can see a life for themselves doing one of the most important jobs anyone can do – growing our nation’s food.
Paul Dewar understands that at the heart of good agriculture policy is an understanding and respect for the vital work farm families do and the ability to listen, really listen, to the needs of family farmers.
A Paul Dewar NDP government will focus on supporting the family farm, by addressing the current bias towards large corporate agri-businesses and implementing programs that address the current family farm crisis.
Some of his proposals are:
Fighting for Farmers on the International Stage – While Canada’s agricultural industry plays a significant role feeding people here at home, it also relies significantly on export trade.
Paul Dewar will fight for Canadian farmers during international trade negotiations to ensure that trade sanctions are based on science, not politics. Post BSE-crisis and more recently the US Country of Origin Labeling Legislation (COOL) we saw clearly how politics can have a negative impact on Canadian farmers by taking away available markets. Large, direct subsidies to farmers distort trade and give farmers in other countries an unfair advantage.
Paul Dewar will work with farmers and their organizations to ensure our trade deals support Canadian farmers, not take away their opportunities.
Strengthening Support for Business Risk Management and Farm Innovation - The Harper Conservatives and the Liberals before them have designed Agricultural programs, like CAIS and AgriStability, that work against the interests of family farmers.
In fact programs often seem specifically designed to punish family farmers and benefit large corporate owned and controlled operations. It is time to stop these practices and support family farmers, not big, often multi-national companies. It is time to cap program payments so that the bulk of the money goes to family farmers first and foremost. Family farmers need enhanced insurance programming so that they can properly manage risk on-farm and income stabilization programming that helps them deal with the ebbs and flows of the agriculture market. They also need a federal government that invests in research into farm innovation to help farmers improve production and access new markets.
Paul Dewar will do this in consultation with Canada’s farm organizations, but the bottom line is that money will be directed to farm families with a special emphasis on young farmers.
Support for the Canadian Wheat Board and other supply management initiatives – The Canadian Wheat Board is an agricultural marketing success story. Stephen Harper’s decision to dismantle it is contrary to the wishes of Western grain farmers who voted to keep the single-desk system in a recent plebiscite.
In fact, a recent court decision found the government violated its own laws in its haste to undermine western grain farmers and hand over the keys to the countryside to multinational corporations like Cargill. Unfortunately it is typical of the approach of this government – bull-headed, anti-democratic, and with a focus on big business rather than family-owned farms. Stephen Harper has signalled intention to extend his attack on the CWB on other supply management initiatives such as dairy and egg boards which similarly jeopardize the investments of Canadian farmers.
Paul Dewar supports farmers in their fight to maintain the CWB and will work with them to keep this, and other fair marketing initiatives like supply management, in place.
Education – Many Canadians know that supporting local farmers provides a benefit to our health, the environment and helps to maintain vibrant rural communities but more education is needed.
Paul Dewar proposes some educational programs to enhance the knowledge of both farmers and consumers:
- Work with provinces to have food production, healthy food choices and food preparation taught in schools.
- A national advertising campaign to promote locally-grown food.
- Assistance with the cost of education, training and mentoring for young people who want to go into farming.
Transportation – The costs of transporting food from the farm to consumer are extremely high and are another hindrance to financial success for small farm families. Paul Dewar proposes working with farm organizations and the provinces to implement a National Food-Stuffs Transportation Strategy to provide affordable transportation costs for farmers. The Grain Revenue Cap is the only mechanism farmers have to control grain freight rates.
Paul Dewar will make adjustments to the revenue cap that reflect gains in productivity made by railway companies to ensure that these companies are not making excessive profits moving grain on the backs of family farmers.
National Food Strategy - In light of the potential calamities which are likely to arise from the effects of climate change, trade disputes and rising energy prices, there is a growing public demand for the federal government to forge enhanced partnerships with provincial, territorial and municipal leaders to develop a comprehensive and long-term Canadian food strategy.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture as well as other organizations is calling for such a strategy to enhance Canadian food security and sovereignty.
Paul Dewar supports the implementation of a National Food Strategy working in consultation with farmers, consumers, farm organizations as well as provincial/territorial and municipal governments.
National Ecological Goods and Services Program – Canadian farmers have been environmental stewards for generations. They care deeply for the land they grow food on and want to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our water. Ecological goods and services (EG&S) are the environmental benefits resulting from a healthy ecosystem.
Paul Dewar will establish a national environmental program that recognizes and rewards the important contributions farmers make towards protecting the environment through their land management practices.
Accountability for the biotech industry – Many farmers are increasingly concerned about the loose accountability and government oversight on the biotech industry particularly for the non-replicating seeds. The introduction of these GMOs can undermine diversity in crops. It is also threatening resiliency in an era of climate change.
Paul Dewar will enact the NDP bill to hold the biotech industry to account for producing a business case and a scientific risk assessment review prior to the introduction of experimental GMO seeds.

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