Agriculture Land Use Planning: Important New Study

19 November '13

In a recent blog post about Ontario’s Local Food Act, we commented on the difficulty of making legislative changes within the agriculture sector, partly because there are many competing priorities between levels of government and geographical regions. One potential pitfall with the Local Food Act, is the uncertainty about whether favouring local food as a provincial policy, will lead to unintentional negative consequences for other policy objectives, or within other regions within Ontario, and Canada. Food and agricultural policies exist at all levels of government, about numerous subject matters, and they don’t always operate in harmony with one another. One underlying reality, however, is that in virtually every circumstance, agricultural policies and objectives have a bearing on Canadian farm land itself. 
We’ve recently learned of a new study out of the University of Northern British Columbia that’s taking a much closer look at this topic. ‘Agricultural Land Use Planning in Canada’ is a 3 year study looking at how the changing role and value of agriculture affects agricultural land use planning across national, provincial and local jurisdictions within Canada. The research team, led by Dr. D.J. Connell, will analyze policy relating to Agri-food, focusing on three main areas: global competitiveness, farmland preservation, and food sovereignty (i.e. the sustainability and security of our domestic food supply).  
This is a really important subject area, so we wanted to provide you with some more details about this project...

Ontario's Local Food Act: Food for Thought

16 November '13

 Last week the Ontario Government passed a Local Food Act. Because the term, ‘local food’ is becoming increasingly common, there’s the potential gloss over this act without realizing how significant it really is. Ontario's Local Food Act is a really big deal. It breaks new ground. In fact, it’s the first act of its kind in Canada.  
The implications aren't just political or economical, and the impact of this legislation doesn't begin and end with farmers or processors. It affects us all.
Here are the act’s three main purposes: 
    1.  To foster successful and resilient local food economies and systems throughout Ontario.
    2.  To increase awareness of local food in Ontario, including the diversity of local food.
    3.  To encourage the development of new markets for local food.
The government will create targets in order to improve food literacy, encourage more use of local food in public organizations (e.g. hospitals, schools, government agencies), and increase access to local food. The act emphasizes consultation and collaboration in the creation of these goals, as well as reporting on the progress and outcomes. The act also includes a local food week, to take place each June, and implements a 25 per cent tax credit to farmers who donate excess produce to local food banks. 
At first glance this sounds great, but there’s part of us that asks, ‘is that all?” We can think of some other features we would have liked to see included in the act, and we’ve certainly heard some banter from others about where the act falls short. We figured we’d explore what the legitimate criticisms may be...