I received this very worthwhile email today from the National Farmers Union. Thought it was worth sharing!
Where do your candidates and their parties stand on key farm issues? Are people in your community aware of agriculture issues when they decide who to vote for? Here are some questions you can use on the doorstep, on the phone, in public forums, in the media and in conversations with your neighbours. You may also want to organize a public forum where candidates can present their positions and ideas and voters can ask them questions. A guide for organizing a public forum is included at the end of this document.
Election Day is May 2, 2011. See the Elections Canada website for information about voting http://www.elections.ca .This site may be particularly useful for young people voting for the first time.
When speaking with candidates please feel free to choose any or all of these questions, and to add other questions that you are particularly interested in or that strongly affect your area. For more detailed information about most of these issues you can visit the National Farmers Union website and look for the relevant brief at http://nfu.ca/briefs.html
Questions for Parties and Candidates
Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
Canada is one step away from legalizing the sale and production of genetically engineered alfalfa. If it becomes a registered seed variety it would become part of our agriculture system. Presently conventional and organic farmers have 200 alfalfa varieties to choose from, but once GE alfalfa is released they will become contaminated. It is certain that the introduction of GE alfalfa would have serious negative impacts on organic farming as well as on domestic and export livestock markets. Would you support a moratorium on the release of GE alfalfa Canada?
What specific actions would you/your party take to support young farmers to enter farming and succeed as farmers? Canada has lost almost 80,000 farms since 1988 and has 70% fewer young farmers. There are no incentives for young people to enter farming. The NFU Youth recommends a federally-funded small loans program specifically for new farmers which is implemented by local lending institutions and/or rural municipalities; a Land Bank or Land Trust system of tenure that guarantees a fair price to the seller, while offering new farmers affordable conditions of purchase; and a lower cap of $500,000 on federal support programs to ensure more support goes to the most vulnerable farmers. Do you think support for young and new farmers is needed? And if so, what form should these programs take?
Labelling of Food
Canadian consumers want to know what they are buying at the grocery store and they would like to support their farmer neighbours when they purchase food. Canadian farmers do not want unfair competition from products that are produced using lower standards than what is allowed in Canada. Mandatory labelling of foods made with genetically modified organisms and criteria for Product of Canada labelling are of particular concern.
What would you do about labelling in order to support Canadian family farmers?Foreign Ownership of Farmland
Foreign and corporate investors are increasingly looking at Canadian farmland as an investment for providing a return to their shareholders from renting out the land or speculating on the land values and/or for growing food for to provide for residents of their own country as a hedge against food shortages due to climate change. If these investments continue Canadians stand to lose control of our farmland and the price of land could rise out of reach of family farmers.
What specific actions would you party take to ensure that Canada’s farmland does not end up under foreign ownership?
Supply management was established 40 years ago for dairy, chicken, turkey and eggs is a necessary tool for farmers to be able to obtain a fair return from the marketplace for their product. Supply management is under pressure from other countries and large corporation that would like to see these products traded globally on the open market allowing them access to Canada’s market and driving down prices to farmers.
What is your position on supply management?
One issue dairy farmers presently experience is certain amounts of off-shore dairy products and milk ingredients which are produced (with BST, possible inhibitors levels and coming from non CQM farms) and which do not meet Canadian regulations are allowed to enter Canada.
Would you support improved boarder controls to prevent importation of dairy products that do not comply with Canadian regulations?
Canada – Europe Free Trade
The federal and provincial governments are presently negotiating a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. CETA adds precautionary seizure provisions to intellectual property rights’ enforcement. Farmers accused of having a patented gene in their crops or seed could lose their farms, crops, equipment and cash – simply for alleged infringement. CETA would also forbid all government entities from favouring local or domestic businesses. A government that wanted to support local agriculture by promoting local food would not be able to implement a policy favouring government purchasing of local food over imported food, subject to certain thresholds.
Are you aware of this proposed trade agreement? What is your position on how it will or will not benefit Canada's farmers?
Canadian Wheat Board
The Canadian Wheat Board is Canada’s single desk seller of wheat and barley on the export market. Farmers have consistently elected a majority of farmer directors who support maintaining the CWB as the sole marketer of Canadian wheat and barley. The CWB ensures that the full price of the grain it sells is returned to the farmer, and prevents farmers from being subject to wild price fluctuations due to speculation in the grain trade. In spite of strong, consistent and widespread support among farmers, the Canadian Wheat Board has been subject to attack by interests that would like to see it weakened or destroyed.
What is your position on the role of the Canadian Wheat Board in Canada?
PVY type of viruses are having a huge negative impact on seed potato growers in Atlantic Canada. In other countries, in the US for example, specialized research is taking place to try to get a handle on this. In Canada, this issue is not receiving the attention it deserves. Would you call for effective and timely PVY virus research to be done in Canada?
National Food Policy
Two and a half million Canadians regularly have trouble putting food on the table, thousands of family farms are disappearing every year, the environment is being pushed to the limit, a quarter of Canadians are obese, and Canada is the only G8 country without a nationally-funded school meal program. Increasingly both rural and urban, farmers and consumers are recognizing the need for an integrated food policy to effectively address these serious problems. What steps will your party take towards developing and implementing a food policy reflects the realities of the average Canadian and not just corporations and industry?
Food Processing Infrastructure
With the challenges of climate change and rising oil prices, Canadians want more of our food produced in Canada and within their own regions. In order to make that happen we need to rebuild local food processing. Such infrastructure will revitalize rural, remote and small communities. At the same time, food inspection rules need to be appropriate for smaller scale facilities.
What will you do to support family farms and rural communities by rebuilding the small and medium size food processing sector, so that we can process our food here in Canada?
Agriculture and Environment
Agriculture may well be the sector most affected by climate change, as our success depends so much on the weather. Farmers will need to adapt to climate change and can also help mitigate. The Environmental Farm Plan is a federal/provincial cost-shared program that provides support for farmers to make changes on their farms that are good for the environment. Most of the costs for the changes are covered by the farmer, but the EFP provides some critical financial support. However this program could be expanded both in the kinds of action it supports as well as the amount of money devoted to it. Would you support adding more options to the EFP? Would you support increasing the total funding for the program?
Party policies/platform planks available and/or relevant to farming:
http://www.blocquebecois.org/dossiers/campagne-2011/documents/EnoncePolitique- Anglais.pdf Platform in English
Conservative http://www.conservative.ca/policy/platform_2011/ Policy document
Green http://greenparty.ca/node/13312 Agriculture and Food policy http://greenparty.ca/node/13313 Genetically Engineered Organisms http://greenparty.ca/node/13331 Agriculture and Climate Change
Liberal http://www.liberal.ca/platform/ Overall platform http://www.liberal.ca/issues/rural-canada/ Rural issues http://cdn2.liberal.ca/files/2010/07/foodpolicy_e.pdf Food policy
New Democrat http://www.ndp.ca/platform Overall platform