We hear often from our members about regulations at different levels of government that hamper small food and farming producers small start-ups from getting going or scaling up your business.
We're wondering what policy, regulation, and government stumbling blocks you've faced in your good food business. Please let us know in the comments section below - this info will be really helpful for us to make some change. Please share your story:
Liberal leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne has written Food Forward, committing to pass a strengthened Local Food Act that would, "develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food."
This statement on goals and targets across the sector is an improvement upon uncertain language in the Local Food Act. When the government prorogued the Legislature, the Act, which had just been introduced, was left in limbo.
Wynne had previously commited to re-introducing the Act and serving as Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Other relevant points in her platform relating to food/jobs include:
- "Streamline regulations that impact the Agri-food industry, review current rural/agricultural assessment and taxation, and develop a single window information approach to government" Food Forward has asked for a review of regulations that hamper small food enterprises
- "Introduce community hubs for adult education and training - coordinating government, non-profit, and private sector resources to give recent graduates, new Canadians and the unemployed practical tools to participate in the workforce"
Food Forward also wants to see buying targets and government support for farmers who grow healthy, ecological food and small food sector start-ups. Though risk management programs have their place and food exports have been a recent priority of Premier McGuinty, the government and future premier will need to develop more creative policies to effectively address and bring small farms back to Ontario. Food sector policy that considers farmer income, fair labour, and young and newcomer farmers to grow ecologically food for diverse, local markets would support the creation of new food jobs and market opportunities in Toronto.
Food Forward also supports Sustain Ontario's call for food leadership.
See Kathleen Wynne's letter and response to our Food Forward's questionnaire below.
Dear Mr. Higgins,
Thank you very much for your letter enclosing Food Forward’s questionnaire. I am pleased to outline my position on these key issues of importance.
Ontario's farmers and Agri-Food businesses put healthy, locally grown food on our tables, contribute $33 billion to our economy and represent 10 per cent of our entire workforce — 700,000 jobs.
To keep our Agri-Food businesses strong, stable and secure we've invested over $2 billion in farm income stabilization programs since 2003.
Ontarians grow the best food in the world. That's why we're continuing to push hard to promote local foods and support our farmers with risk management programs. While we've called on the federal government to support Ontario farmers, the Hudak PCs won't stand up for our farmers. It's simply not a priority for them.
As Premier, I will work hard supporting, promoting and celebrating locally grown food. And only Ontario Liberals have a plan to keep building a strong and prosperous rural Ontario — one that will continue to support farm families for generations to come.
Mr. Higgins, thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Food Forward’s letter and questions— and please accept my best wishes.
#1. What would you do to support the growth of good food jobs in Ontario across the sector?
I will bring back and pass a strengthened Local Food Act, to support our farmers by promoting food grown and made in Ontario, and develop goals and targets around the production, processing, distribution, sales and marketing of Ontario food.
Sometimes, we Ontario Liberals are accused of not taking rural, agricultural and small town issues seriously. I am going to change that. To demonstrate my personal commitment to rural and small town Ontario and to make sure that a government I lead gets it right, as Leader and Premier I will appoint myself the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for at least one year.
We also need to be selling more food to the world to create good jobs at home. That's why, in January, the Premier is leading a trade mission to China with a major focus on promoting Ontario agri-food. We're asking every Ontario family to shift just $10 of their weekly grocery budget to locally grown Ontario food, which would increase sales by $2.4 billion for our businesses and create 10,000 jobs.
I will empower our cities and towns, and our rural and northern regions. We need to move forward with a balanced approach celebrating all that rural Ontario can contribute to our shared prosperity. Working together with community and municipal leadership we can secure a prosperous future for our rural and agricultural communities in Ontario.
#2. Would good food jobs or a strengthened Local Food Act be a priority of your government?
I’m proud to have the support of Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and I will continue his good work by re-introducing an Ontario Local Food Act and working with farmers to bring more Ontario food to the table.
I am strongly committed to protecting our family farms, with important programs such as risk management, announced in the 2011 Budget. We will continue to work with farmers and industry to put more Ontario food onto kitchen tables. That includes building on our $80-million investment in Ontario’s Buy Local Strategy and supporting our local Ontario food processors through economic development funding. Our Buy Local Strategy includes substantial funding for local farmers’ markets, which has helped them increase the number of farmers’ markets from 90 in 2002 to 159 today.
Let's follow up on those World Food Day greetings below, to explore what's come of the Local Food Act. A pointed blog from our colleague Hayley Lapalme popped up quickly after the Premier's announcement to look at what's happened to the Act and to ask some key questions we must pose to MPPs. See Recess on the Local Food Act? (Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable).
Hayley shares my view that we've got more time to improve the Local Food Act by asking tough questions, and creating more dialogue and demands on government while the Legislature's on hold (which itself of course is a tough sell for many of us as democracy activists). This is particularly true because the Act will have to be re-introduced again in its entirety (see updates & explanations from TVO and The Star about the situation). This one was introduced just before the Legislature was prorogued, so it didn't get very far anyhow. A bill must pass three readings + committee meetings to become law - the Act had just passed first base.
What I'm saying is, for better or worse, it was still just a bill (...is there a Canadian version of this??)
We're sitting in a time when good jobs are hard to access, causing poverty and social determinants of health to worsen. But we also have entrepreneurs clamoring to create opportunities in good food by growing businesses that are creating new systems of food production, distribution, and sales. You need only to look at our Business Hub to find Toronto examples which are largely sourcing from, and enriching our countryside, while providing good food in the City and region.
Burgeoning food business in Toronto - streetfoodto.com
So to Hayley's second question for MPPs. Why does this act leave out new opportunities for small-scale farmers, processors, and other businesses to make a good living and create more jobs? Food business incubators, canneries, community-based caterers, urban growers, chefs, tech developers, new markets, and non-profits like ours are working to make an impact in this work, but largely without support - and often enough with a lot of hassle - from government. A Local Food Act is a wonderful opportunity to build in smart regulations that support other scales of food and farming, and programs that level the playing field for those struggling to sell healthy green products to Ontarians in a highly subsidized food market.
Share this if you think its worth discussing, post a comment, and get ready to talk more on about what a Local Food Act could be.
- Darcy Higgins, Executive Director of Food Forward
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org