Strategy puts food on the table

Spring and the start of farmer’s market season increase everyone’s awareness of local food and the people who grow or harvest it.

This month New Democrats introduced a national food strategy, covering the interrelated issues of food security, health and safety, agri-business development, consumer rights and rural development.

“Everybody Eats” is a strategy for a whole food system – from fork to farm, from harvest to plate.

While the whole document can be read at www.ndp.ca (look under the “News” tab), I thought I would highlight the parts that could benefit Island growers and harvesters.

We want to support sustainable fisheries management for generations to come. That includes engaging with local First Nations to ensure social, ceremonial and food fisheries but also to reconcile commercial interests.

New Democrats believe we should preserve the right of farmers to save and condition seed for their own use.

Building on our history of collective action, we want to see public and affordable crop, livestock and farm insurance made available to all growers.

So many young farmers in our area are priced out of the land market. So New Democrats want to undertake a number of strategies including support for farmers who are hiring young workers for enhanced skill training and mentorship and reviewing the tax code to support new entrants perhaps through an increase to the restricted farm loss exemption.

New Democrats recognize that Canadians want to support local food producers and one way is to develop food hubs in regions that help manage the collection, distribution and marketing from local and regional food producers to large clients including food wholesalers and large institutions like hospitals and schools.

One out of eight jobs in Canada is generated by the food industry. So if we can increase the value of food processing here, we create jobs. That means promoting available technologies and helping transfer knowledge from research projects to the business community.

Help protect wild fisheries by developing a regulatory framework for aquaculture through a federal Aquaculture Act. That would include supporting the transition to closed containment aquaculture.

New Democrats would work with the province to implement scale-sensitive inspection systems to for small processors – so we could bring back smaller abattoirs and reduce the distance animals must travel before slaughter.

Many people have contacted my office about genetic modification of food. The National Food Strategy would ensure clear, accurate labelling of the origin of food and food products including the use of genetically-modified ingredients.

Jean Crowder is the MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan.