By: Susan Mann
Published: Better Farming, September 19, 2012

Local food legislation to boost Ontario’s farm product sales is an appealing idea but some farm leaders say more details are needed to tell if it will benefit growers.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the provincial government’s intention to introduce a local food bill that supports, promotes, and celebrates Ontario-produced food. The proposed bill hasn’t been introduced at Queen’s Park yet. McGuinty made the announcement Tuesday at the International Plowing Match in Roseville near Ayr.

In a Sept. 18 press release the provincial government says the Local Food Act would support a leading provincial industry that annually contributes more than $33 billion to the economy and employs more than 700,000 Ontarians.

Several Ontario farm group leaders see the proposal as positive for the industry and its farmers but one group, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, has concerns Canada’s regulatory system doesn’t support a local food system.

mean for OFA members? Wales says it would hopefully mean some greater marketing opportunities and increased consumption of local products by both consumers and processors. There are also opportunities for better and more consistent labelling of fresh produce on store shelves and the development of local food hubs, such as the Elmira Produce Auction, a regional wholesale market.

Wales says such legislation could also lead to greater consumption of Ontario product in government institutions. “That’s something we’ve all been pushing for as well.”

Ann Slater, coordinator for the National Farmers Union in Ontario, says they’re supportive of some type of local food legislation “because we’d like to see more emphasis on supplying the domestic market.” The proposed bill has the potential to increase emphasis on Ontario food for the province’s residents and to support provincial farmers.

But details aren’t known yet and “I think we need to know that,” she says.

One of the ideas the Ontario NFU wants to see “is a focus on rebuilding the relationship between those who grow and harvest food and those who eat it,” Slater says. Another idea is for the province to redirect its overall agri-food policy to domestic food first instead of trade first.

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