It is such a joy to see that Kathleen Wynn’s Ontario government and her Ministry of Agriculture starting to appreciate that local agriculture and food is already the largest contributor to the economy, and with some help could once again become even larger. On the other hand, a key part of the Stephen Harper’s Federal government agenda has been to increase international corporate control for boosting the economy (i.e. decreasing local purchasing decisions and environmental regulations). He is now actively encouraging this collapsing system by trying to launch the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement(CETA) with Europe.
The last time something like this was launched was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But this had more to do with enabling trade and investments while protecting labour and the environment. Since agriculture was not really part of this agreement, Canadian (and Mexican) farmers have had to unfairly endure an onslaught of heavily subsidized American foods. To avert a catastrophe, Canadian winemakers proactively created the successful Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). This time we need to proactively redesign most of our agriculture and food systems – especially the dairy industry. [It is terribly insensitive for Loblaws to cease selling local Organic Meadow milk at this difficult time.]
In preparation for these coming changes, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has just announced Designation Consultations to create systems similar to the VQA. These could strengthen a variety of businesses to better serve local customers and to cope with CETA obligations. The Ministry has also just passed the Local Food Act to increase supplies and awareness of local foods. And the Ministry recently launched the Local Food Fund to help build local food networks, enhance technological capacity, research best practices, and (most importantly) educate consumers. To learn how you might access this fund, download this Local Food Fund Guidebook.