KAP Members Urge Food Security and Food Safety Priority

by 5m Editor
12 July 2008, at 8:14am

CANADA - Manitoba farmers have called on their umbrella farm organization to put a higher priority on Canadian food security and food safety and encourage governments to do likewise.

As part of their organization's annual General Council Meeting (July 10) in Brandon members of Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) passed a resolution dealing with food security and food safety, one of several resolutions passed at the meeting.

"It's become an increasing concern because of the whole debate going on in society related to food and food availability and food cost into the future," says Central Plains area farmer and KAP president Ian Wishart.

We've reached a point in time, the first time in many years, when the cost of food to the average Canadian is going to go up."

The resolution calls on KAP to begin development of a vision for agriculture that includes food security and food safety; that KAP ask governments to take seriously food security and food safety for their citizens through seriously supporting the primary producer; and that KAP ask governments to help create an environment for primary agriculture to ensure financial viability to give farmers a stable basis for production.

Public More Concerned with Issues Related to Food

Waskada area farmer and KAP district one chair Lance Vanbeselaere, the member who moved the resolution, points out recent food poisoning incidents in the United States as well as in Canada, have drawn public attention to the food safety issue.

"I think it's on the top of consumers minds (and) has been more so in the last year."

Elgin area farmer and KAP district one executive member David Rolfe, the member who seconded the motion agrees, "Food safety and security are becoming an increasing concern world wide and consumers in Canada share those concerns."

Specifically the resolution endorsed by general council identifies; The aging population in agricultural production; Increasing production and transportation costs; and Increasing concern for food security and food safety among the general population.

Action Intended to Ensure Sustainability of Canadian Food Production

The resolution is all about providing consumers with safe products in the grocery stores and making sure those products are there in the long term, says Rolfe.

"We certainly don't want to get in the same position we've witnessed in other countries where we have food riots, empty food shelves and so on. I think Canada is certainly a land of plenty and we want to make sure it continues that way but there's a cost to that too. We see a significant rise in energy costs, transportation costs and that all leads to food security issues."

Wishart adds, "We want to create a business environment and an environment in rural Canada that encourages young people to come back to the farm and one of the things we've been missing is profitability and predictability and good stable markets."

"We need to turn that around and build a solid profitable viable industry. That's really what the message we got here was and to develop a long term plan."

Major Shift Expected in Canada's Food Production Base

"By some estimate, 65 percent of the cultivated land in Canada will change hands in the next 10 to 15 years," says Rolfe. "That means that we're going to have a whole new generation of farmers coming into Canada. Whether it's sons or daughters taking over the family farm or whether it's new entrants into the business, there's a vast wealth of knowledge out there within the industry that needs to be transferred onto that next generation. That next generation also has to have the financial viability to carry on those farming operations."

He observes we've seen a tremendous increase in input costs which, in spite of the rising commodity prices, increases the risk the farmer faces when producing crops or livestock and that risk escalates during the transition from established to beginning farmers.

"With the increased risk that we see with the exposure to rising input costs and the transition to the next generation, we want to make sure the upcoming generation has that ability to stay in business and provide a stable and safe food supply for Canada."

KAP Urged to Lobby for Government Involvement

Members are calling on KAP to lobby government to achieve the parameters that will ensure a successful agricultural environment can occur.

Wishart believes the focus must be on food and food production, food security and a Canada first policy where Canada gets looked after.

He notes, "Playing into all of this is the Canadian labeling initiative to change Canadian labeling and the buy Manitoba, buy local initiatives that we're seeing more and more of. "They occur in every province. It's not specific to us but it's something we have to try and put together and take advantage of."

KAP District 8 board member George Graham believes. "In order to ensure that the food they're buying is safe we should produce more of it here at home."

He says primary producers want to produce safe food and governments need to be on side to make sure the consumers realize the food we're producing is safe.

As far as availability, he stresses, "This province can produce more food than we can possibly eat."

As an example, he says, Peak of the Market produces fabulous products and the vegetable growers of Manitoba can supply more than enough vegetables for this province to eat. He admits we do have a problem producing some foods but, as far as meat products, poultry products, dairy products, we can produce all that we need and it is absolutely safe.

Graham recommends, "Eat home grown food, eat Manitoba, ask if it's been grown in this province."

Food Pricing Considered Key

Rolfe believes there has to be a recognition that Canadians are going to have to pay more for food.

Wishart agrees, the cost of food to the average Canadian is going to go up.

He notes the price of food has been dropping steadily over the past 20 years.

"In terms of pricing we are without a doubt the cheapest in the world. With about 9.8 percent of disposable income that is by far the cheapest food in the world. We're looking in Europe, for instance, 15 to 18 percent of their disposable income goes into food."

Wishart stresses, "Canadian consumers have to be aware that Canadian food is amongst the safest in the world. We operate with a set of environmental and social standards and food safety standards in Canada that are second to none in anywhere in the world."

He says, while other countries may have food processing plants that operate to the same standard of food safety as plants in Canada, no one ever goes beyond that plant to see if the farms are operated to the same standards or if their environmental standards are equal.

"Canadians have to be aware that, if this is the standard they wish to apply in Canada, then this is the standard they should apply to everyone. We simply haven't been doing that. It's sort of the hidden price of food and the hidden price of food we haven't been paying."

Rolfe concludes, "We need to make sure that, in the event of a downturn in commodity prices, that we have a very stable farm economy so that consumers can continue to enjoy the amount of food that they have currently and safe food."

Further Reading

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