Losing Our Grip - 2015 Update
- Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
- Food sovereignty defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.
- Food sovereignty offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers.
- Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal - fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability.
- Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition.
- Food sovereignty ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food.
- Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.
1. Canada and its provinces must enact a unified set of land ownership restrictions wherein farmland can be owned only by individuals who reside in the province in which the land is located, or by incorporated farming operations (including co-operatives) owned by individuals who reside in the province in which the land is located.
2. Provincial governments should monitor foreign and domestic ownership and control of farmland within its boundaries and publicly report changes annually. Provinces should also consider legislating appropriate maximum size of land holdings per individual, per incorporated family or cooperative farm and per corporation as has been enacted in Prince Edward Island.
3. Differential taxation rates should encourage ownership by farm families and other local citizens and discourage investors and large corporations from buying and owning farmland. Farmers and other local residents should be charged lower tax rates than investors, foreign interests, non-farm corporations, and large farming corporations with numerous shareholders, should be taxed at higher rates. Investments in farmland investment companies should not be RRSP eligible.
4. Governments should provide incentives and support for land stewardship practices that maintain the land’s productivity for the long term along, and corresponding penalties for using farming practices designed to extract maximum rents in the short term at the expense of soil health, biodiversity, water quality and other environmental benefits.
5. The Government of Canada and the provinces must set up mechanisms for farm family intergenerational land transfers that do not rely on loans and interest payments. Governments must find ways for young and new farmers to gain secure access to farmland that does not require massive indebtedness. Such mechanisms could include:
a. Community-owned land trusts and land banks to ensure food production by local farmers
b. Community-based financing options (that retain interest-payment dollars within local communities).
c. Government agencies that support seller-finance options. (Sellers and buyers could self-finance, and the role of the government agency would be to step in to address rare instances when transactions go bad and there is a need to return the land to the seller.)
d. An income-assurance plan for beginning farmers to assist them in becoming established and support their long-term success.
e. A retirement savings program or pension plan specifically designed for farmers that would reduce their need to rely on selling land to fund their retirement.
6. Transferring farmland to non-agricultural uses must be restricted and curtailed. Industrial or residential development on Class 1, 2 or 3 farmland should be prohibited. All provinces should enact legislation to protect their farmland using the laws of BC, PEI and Quebec as a starting point to improve and expand farmland protection across Canada.
7. Farm input suppliers must be banned from tying input financing to delivery contracts.
8. Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial governments must acknowledge governments’ role in creating the debt crisis through policies and legislation that allow corporations to externalize costs to farmers. They must deal with the debt bomb that has been planted under the base of our farming system by:
a. Preparing an honest and factual analysis of farm debt and net farm income
b. Designing effective and targeted farm support programs that allow farmers to gain short-term stability and allow them to manage an increasingly unmanageable debt load; and by ensuring that only active farmers – not farmland investment companies – have access to such farm support programs.
c. Reducing the cap on farm support programs so that public funding will encourage small and medium-sized farms that provide multiple social, environmental and economic benefits to rural communities.
d. Responding honestly and effectively to the farm income crisis and the imbalance of market power that is at the root of that crisis so that farm families can emerge from chronic financial hardship and earn farm-sustaining incomes from the marketplace; and
e. Direct Farm Credit Corporation lending to provide more support to small and medium sized farms that produce food for domestic consumption. FCC should be prohibited from lending to farmland investment companies or to large export-oriented food processing companies.
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What is the NFU?
The National Farmers Union is a direct-membership voluntary organization made up of Canadian farm families who share common goals. It is the only farm organization incorporated through an Act of Parliament.
NFU members believe that the problems facing farmers are common problems, and that farmers producing diverse products must work together to advance effective solutions. The NFU works toward the development of economic and social policies that will maintain the family farm as the primary food-producing unit in Canada.