Ottawa—The federal government has mandated the Minister of Agriculture to “develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country.” On Thursday, October 5, National Farmers Union (NFU) Youth President, Ayla Fenton, will speak to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, asking them to make food sovereignty the foundation of Canada’s national food policy.
“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,” explained Fenton, age 27, who works on an organic grain farm near Kingston, ON.
“A food policy for Canada could usher in a holistic view of food and agriculture that would transform Canada’s farming, food processing and distribution system into one that makes food sovereignty a reality,” Fenton continued. “We urge the government to start building a food system that benefits Canadian farmers and consumers instead of accelerating down its current path, which has only concentrated the power and wealth of multinational corporations and diminished the democratic space for elected governments.”
It is very challenging to earn a living from farming. Declining profitability has made it more difficult for farms to survive, and even harder for young people to become farmers. “We will remind the Parliamentary Committee that since the end of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the value of farm products has steadily gone up while the farmers’ share of that value has gone down – even though yields have increased considerably. Since 1985, agribusiness corporations have captured 98% of the gross revenues generated by Canada’s farms, leaving farmers with just 2%,” said Fenton.
“Canadians are consuming more food that is not grown or raised by Canadian farmers or processed by Canadian workers. We export more low-priced bulk commodities and import more higher-value prepared foods, fruits and vegetables that could be grown and processed in Canada. Infrastructure designed to ramp up exports puts roadblocks in the way of the more vibrant, localized food system that Canadians want,” said Fenton. “Our food system is not only becoming more export dependent, it is losing its diversity and complexity, becoming ever more brittle in the face of unavoidable economic and climate stresses.”
“If a national food policy is to meet its stated goals, the federal government must limit the power of corporations in the food system and explicitly support the next generation of food producers,” said Fenton. “By supporting new farmers from diverse backgrounds entering all sectors of agriculture, we can create a more resilient and just food system that will sustain and nourish future generations of Canadians.”
Our question to the Committee is which will take priority — a food policy for Canadians that prioritizes farmer livelihoods and the interests of Canadian eaters or an export growth policy that promotes the interests of global agribusiness corporations?
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Ayla Fenton, NFU Youth President: (613) 539-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayla Fenton will be speak to the House of Commons Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee in its study on A Food Policy for Canada
Where: Room 425, 180 Wellington, Ottawa, ON (Entrance at 197 Sparks Street)
When: Thursday, October 5, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m ET
Read the National Farmers Union brief to the Committee: NFU brief on A Food Policy for Canada
Version français: UNF mémoire sur la Politique alimentaire pour le Canada