by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Your vote on May 2 may not change much down on the farm, partly because federal parties are letting farm organizations do the thinking for them and focusing on safety nets and local food when they should be thinking globally and on a very large scale, according to researchers at the George Morris Centre. The Guelph-based agriculture sector independent think tank has published an analysis of federal party platforms on agriculture and food that finds federal parties are only advocating policies that support the status quo.
Al Mussell, a senior research associate at the centre and one of the authors of the report, said we face the challenge of feeding seven to nine billion people and “our federal politicians are talking about safety nets. That’s all they can agree on, safety nets and local food.”
He said we should be pulling out all the stops to supply growing world demand for food.
“We need to be talking about capacity,” he said. “How do we leverage our capacity in terms of technology, innovation, research and development?”
Mussell said we can help meet world demand by working together. “We need to increase output, increase efficiency, improve quality, improve coordination in our value chains, focus in more on some of the health attributes in some of the products we sell.” These are things talked about “around the margins,” in party platforms, he said, but not directly.
“There is clearly no intent to be provocative or rock the boat here,” Mussell said. “Here we are sitting with all this wide open space, all this water, all the things that we probably take for granted. We’re going to have this unprecedented opportunity and our politicians are talking safety nets . . . Let’s just think of ourselves as an agricultural nation for a moment. We’ve got a huge opportunity here.”
The authors of the report did identify a couple of policy “hits.” They include the Conservative Party’s proposal for a $50 million fund for the development and commercialization of local farm-based innovation and the Liberal Party’s $80 million Buy Local Fund. However, the authors said both policies would benefit from more detail “including specifics on the longer term goals, measures, and program criteria to determine if such initiatives would substantially alter the current national farm policy landscape.”
They also laud “similar positions advocated by the five parties on Environmental Farm Plans.” Commentary on international trade policy also got hit status, although they noted “slight differences in approach” and questioned “the effectiveness and focus on some issues.”
The authors – Bob Seguin, Janalee Sweetland, Kate Stiefelmeyer and Mussell – conclude that party platforms need to be improved. We should “expect far better,” the authors wrote, “with more proactive policies and electoral platforms which recognize the realities of the Canadian marketplace and do not just gloss over the ‘hot’ issues of the day.” BF