WHITEWATER REGION (Cobden) — NDP candidate Eileen Jones-Whyte met with two experienced organic farmers to learn about problems food producers are facing, prep for all-candidates debates, and discuss how her party’s climate plan can help them.
With all-candidates meetings sponsored by the two leading farm organizations coming up in Killaloe (organized by the NFU on October 5) and Cobden (organized by the OFA on October 9), she wanted expert advice, so she visited with organic milk producer Ron McCoy and grass-fed beef producer Bob Dobson at Mr. Dobson’s heritage farm.
“Farmers are more aware than any of us of the effects of our changing weather. The last six years, we’ve had record droughts and floods,” said Ms. Jones-Whyte. “These changes are real threat to them and to all of us. We all rely on farmers. The time for delay and denial is over – we need to act.”
“It matters not whether you call this more intense and less predictable weather climate change or not,” Mr. McCoy said. “Farmers have to deal with the consequences. Food insecurity is already an issue in the North and that is creeping south.
Both farmers told her there are things that can be done now, but that Canada needs a plan to protect farmers and food security. Industrial-scale agriculture and processing has favoured large companies and encouraged land speculation. Increased regulation has buried small farms and local food processor family businesses in red tape the big companies can manage but they cannot.
The result, they told her, is fewer farmers and fewer local food processors. Food has to be shipped thousands of kilometres to industrial scale processors and then shipped back to rural consumers. Many children of farmers have had to leave, schools and stores have closed, and rural communities have become impoverished as a result.
Ms. Jones-Whyte said, “While harming the local economy, corporate, industrial-scale farming and large scale food processing impoverishes the soil and produces poorer quality food. We need a national strategy that is food and farm focused.”
NDP policy is about listening to farmers and creating both a national food strategy and a national farm strategy. Big business has been too dominant for too long.
Ms. Jones-Whyte said, “When we support local farmers – everyone wins. Buying locally grown products is good for the environment and the economy,” she said. “We are facing a climate crisis, and we’re all in this together – and more healthy local food on Canadians’ plates is part of the solution.”
She said the NDP will make it easier for local producers to be able to connect with people who want to buy local. “Making that connection between local food and focusing on buying local food is very important.”
Earlier this month, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh met with local food producers in Kingston and told them, “We want to work together with all levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — and lay out a plan that makes it easier.”
Published in June 2019, the New Democrats’s New Deal for People commits to a Canadian Food Strategy that will help connect Canadians to farmers with initiatives like local food hubs that link local producers to consumers, and community-supported agriculture, so people can enjoy healthy, local food while doing their part to tackle climate change.
The New Democrats commit to fully protecting supply management, continue investment in modern communications infrastructure for rural areas, provide low cost start up loans for new farmers, reduce student debt, invest in agricultural education and research.
The NDP will support succession planning and end the unfair tax treatment of family farm transfers. The NDP will also work with producers to increase the amount of Canadian food that is sold, processed and consumed in local and regional markets. “In that way we can improve our rural economies, our food and our health. We’re in it for you.”