Guelph, Ont. – The current round of Growing Forward II consultations are far too focussed on the development of export markets and almost completely ignore Canada’s domestic market, says the National Farmers Union (NFU). “There is almost no opportunity to discuss domestic food markets in these consultations. Domestic markets are crucial to the livelihood of farmers and our food security here in Canada,” stated NFU Board member and St. Marys area farmer, Ann Slater.
The current Growing Forward II consultations are part of Phase 2 of the policy process being conducted by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, aimed at implementing the next five year policy framework in agriculture. Phase 2 includes consultations between government officials, farmers, and other agricultural stakeholders. The current framework, Growing Forward I, is scheduled to expire in 2013. Growing Forward II will take effect in 2013 and expire in 2018.
“Not considering domestic markets is a lost opportunity. Half of Canada’s domestic agricultural production is consumed by its domestic market, and 75% of Canada’s processing sector output is also directed towards its own consumers. The domestic market is our avenue to the voting public, and we should be formulating policy and future programming to respond to the needs of Canadians. Certainly Canada will be an exporting nation but to focus policy and market development to such a degree on building the export markets without the same attention to domestic markets is short- sighted and not what Canadians want,” said NFU Women's President and Dashwood area farmer, Joan Brady.
Brady added, “Among the priorities identified at the consultation was the notion of a Canadian Food Strategy. My concern is that the proponents in attendance will design a concept primarily from the agri-industry/export perspective, and it will not contain enough domestic market perspective for Canadians or build on the great work that many communities have done to identify their food priorities and develop plans to ensure a sustainable future”.
“We need a policy that puts domestic food first, a policy that addresses the critical loss of processing capacity in provinces like Ontario and the pathetic labeling system we have for food grown in Canada. I was somewhat dismayed at the lack of support from other farm groups, at the consultation in London, for a policy that puts domestic food first,” said Slater.
“We’ve had our concerns about these consultations for a long time,” Slater continued. “The outcomes always seem very much predetermined. That’s revealed in the range oftopics that are offered up for discussion. The domestic market perspective wasn’t put forward as part of the discussion . The NFU has proven time and again that exports do not help farm income. They also don’t help the environment or rural communities,” stated Slater.