Promotion of Local Foods Act

An Act to promote local foods

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Anne Minh-Thu Quach  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of May 14, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment is designed to implement a pan-Canadian local foods strategy and to require the development of a policy to encourage government institutions to purchase those foods.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 14, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to talk about what I think is an important concept and idea. At the end of the day, Canadians would respond very positively to the concept of a pro-Canadian food strategy. I think it has a lot of appeal and is something we should be moving more towards.

There is a role for the Government of Canada to play, even at some of the very basic levels. I always find it interesting how much money the Government of Canada will spend on advertising. We spend literally tens of millions of tax dollars on useless advertising. A good example, which I have used before, is the economic action plan that the government tends to promote at a phenomenal cost in tax dollars. I would suggest it is an absolute waste. We could use some of those tax dollars in a more productive fashion, and this is a good example of where I believe the government could be spending smarter in terms of those advertising dollars.

Specifically, when we talk about developing a pro-Canadian food strategy, part of that no doubt has to incorporate advertising with respect to some basic information that would be wonderful to know. For example, how many Canadians know what types of vegetables are actually grown here in Canada? When is the season for strawberries? To what degree do we participate in promotion and educating our population about our agricultural communities, our farmers, and the incredible work they do in terms of providing food for our tables?

Once all is said and done, I believe the government will be found lacking and wanting in terms of being able to educate people and provide a higher sense of public awareness. The Conservatives have really done very little on that front, and we have relied on initiatives from the private sector or other levels of government.

For example, one of the huge success stories in my own province is the Peak of the Market, which is an organization that has done exceptionally well in the province of Manitoba. It has provided educational advertising and a much higher sense of public awareness because of its actions.

Peak of the Market contributes immensely to non-profit organizations and educates the population as a whole in terms of the types of vegetables that they receive. Most importantly, not only does it promote good, quality product for the table, but it always provides a wonderful opportunity for farmers in Manitoba to participate in a program, and working as a collective we are able to see that much more in terms of market share. This is critically important, because it helps preserve the family farm and at the same time provides a world-class product. I am a little biased, but I would suggest we produce some of the best agricultural products in the world.

I think of a product like Manitoba-grown potatoes. We have had recognition throughout North America as one of the better producers of potato. French fries are a big thing in our province, not to mention Old Dutch potato chips, which are manufactured in Winnipeg North. I think there would be a very healthy competition between the P.E.I. spud and the Manitoba spud.

At the end of the day, whether it is Peak of the Market or our farmers' direct sales, they have done a phenomenal job in ensuring that we are able to produce a quality product.

The Government of Canada could be playing a role in this area. I used the potato as just one example of where the Government of Canada could do more with respect to advertising. As opposed to advertising the economic action plan, why does the government not invest some of those dollars in promoting locally grown products, no matter what region the products come from?

I remember driving down a highway a number of years back and seeing signs inviting people to pick their own strawberries. Ice cream buckets could be filled with strawberries. At certain times of the year, some grocery stores advertise discounted prices for blueberries and so forth. We need to understand and appreciate the importance of healthy food. People's diets can be influenced by the products they purchase in different seasons of the year and how they can store certain products during the winter months. So much more could be done to educate people.

Canadians want to contribute in a more wholesome way toward what they are eating. They are trying to get a better understanding of the food industry. I myself have tried to get a better understanding of local industries beyond vegetables and fruits.

The chicken and pork industries are two important industries. A good percentage of the chickens processed in Manitoba stay in my province. The agriculture critic for the Liberal Party came to my province and we had a wonderful opportunity to tour hatcheries and egg producers and visited a processor. Thousands of chickens are processed on a daily basis. Even though the bulk of them are used for local consumption, some of them are exported.

The pork industry in Manitoba processes millions of pigs on an annual basis. The agriculture critic and I toured places like the Maple Leaf plant. We also had the opportunity to visit some pork farms. This is an incredible industry that provides a high-quality product. This industry could continue to grow if we did more in terms of diversification, education, and consumer awareness. Our high-quality product could continue to grow, and that growth would ultimately add more jobs and value to our economy. I would argue that the final product would be that much better as well.

I also want to comment on our dairy industry. This industry has done exceptionally well through supply management, something we are committed to maintaining. This industry provides quality milk, cheese, eggs, and so forth, the essential foods that Canadians need.

If we want to be fair, we need to recognize the importance of the role farmers play in our food industry. We should have a strategy in place that would not only recognize their important role but would also encourage and enhance the great potential for growth in that industry.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

Before I begin, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this bill. This bill introduces a pan-Canadian local foods strategy and a policy to encourage federal institutions to purchase those foods. It shows leadership by addressing an issue that is very important to the people in my riding.

To illustrate how important local foods are to my region, I would like to read from an email sent to me by Nicolas Villeneuve, a municipal councillor in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. He is also an apple producer and president of the Deux-Montagnes UPA. When I contacted him to talk about my colleague's proposed strategy, this is what he told me:

The bill you sent me is of critical importance to producers in our region. Government support for local foods is essential to ensure ongoing economic progress in the regions and to safeguard the progress our agricultural undertakings have achieved. Buying local foods will ensure Canadian food sovereignty, which is critical for both current and future generations. This also represents a long-term effort to protect the environment, if only by reducing our food miles. By buying locally, we can optimize people's access to the highest quality foods because quality control on imported products is not subject to reciprocity requirements with respect to production standards. These are the basic elements that I want to bring to your attention in connection with this bill.

I would like to thank Mr. Villeneuve for providing such an excellent summary of why buying local foods is good for our regional economies, not to mention our agricultural sector, food sovereignty and the environment.

Mr. Villeneuve supports this bill, just like many other organizations. I would like to list just a few such organizations that people in my region think are very important: the Association des marchés publics du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Union des producteurs agricoles, Solidarité rurale du Québec and Equiterre. The list goes on and on.

These organizations represent the people in our communities who are out there, close to the land. They realize that this type of bill is necessary if we want to ensure that the buy local movement really takes root.

I would like to talk about the research conducted by Equiterre in 2011, which is laid out in a document titled “Eating at home”.

I would invite those interested in this topic to visit the organization's website, where the research is available in its entirety. This study highlights the fact that Canadians want to eat local. In fact, three out of four Canadians want to. It is also important to define what “eating local” means.

The survey reveals that in situations of choice, Canadian consumers prefer to buy a domestic product, even from a faraway province, rather than an American product that was grown nearer by. Not just a question of kilometres, buying local is an act that is motivated by political rather than environmental concerns. When respondents were questioned on ideas associated with local foods, 94%...of them emphasized that they encouraged the local economy.

I find that very interesting. When I see those statistics, I am proud that Canadians want to support our own producers so that our communities will be stronger and more successful. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what we want to do and what we actually do.

That is why this study also looked at the barriers to buying local foods. One of the most common barriers is the fact that local products are not always clearly identified. The study demonstrates that:

The results of the survey suggest the need for a basket of strategies for easier identification of local products, beyond just a logo or a brand. Strategies could be adapted to the consumer, depending on the environment (rural/urban, province of residence) and the place of purchase. For example, a neighbourhood greengrocer that has the complete confidence of its consumers could rely exclusively on identification at the display or a procurement policy, whereas bigger chains may need to use a label. Employees could also be provided with better training to help them guide clients towards local products.

This is important. We really need to identify best practices in this area and look at the studies that civil society organizations are doing in order to develop a pan-Canadian strategy.

The study indicates that, in addition to product identification problems, the incentives with the greatest impact on consumers are availability, accessibility, price and information. These incentives must be discussed and included in any plans for a pan-Canadian strategy.

The conclusion of the report indicates that we cannot merely rely on the isolated efforts of individuals who are already convinced of the benefits of buying local. We need to do more. Consumers are willing to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables, but all of the necessary conditions for this to happen have yet to be fully realized.

I would like to once again reiterate that this study is available on the Equiterre website, and I encourage anyone who is interested to read it. It is very interesting. However, I would really like to assure my colleagues opposite, who may not trust Equiterre, that buying local is not just a fad. It is a major policy decision that has a widely recognized positive economic impact, particularly for a region like mine.

The study was even picked up by the Quebec magazine Les affaires, which once again pointed out how important it is to the Quebec economy to promote buying local. This shows how important it is for governments, like the Government of Quebec, to get involved. The Government of Quebec is very supportive of buying local. The federal government must also take some leadership with the provinces, while respecting their jurisdictions, of course.

The business community, the agricultural industry and environmentalists all agree that a partnership between the federal and provincial governments will allow much more to be accomplished.

For example, the Centre local de développement de Mirabel in my riding published a really interesting article about buying local in its economic newsletter, MIRADEV. It answered two important questions in this regard. First, why is it important to encourage our local farm producers? Second, what are the advantages of buying local products?

The answer to the first question is very important and speaks to those who are community-minded. Throughout the entire Mirabel region we are lucky to have farmers who sell their products directly from their farms at a kiosk, a shop or a greenhouse. It is also possible to pick your own fruits and vegetables or have baskets of produce delivered to your home. If every consumer added $30 worth of Quebec-grown food to their grocery cart every year, sales would increase by $1 billion over five years and roughly 100,000 jobs would be created throughout Quebec. That is quite significant.

The benefits are clear. In addition to creating jobs and helping our local economy, we are getting fresh food that is often harvested very nearby. We are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, again because there is less movement of goods. We are also directly supporting our farmers and promoting healthy eating. That is important because when we buy locally, farmers use as little pesticide as possible in order to protect the environment.

I will close by saying that this is very important for my region, where the economy survives truly because of the local farm community. That is why I stand by my colleague who is proposing this pan-Canadian strategy. I invite all members of the House to support this bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak in strong support of Bill C-539, an act to promote local foods. I will begin by paying tribute to the energetic and thoughtful work undertaken by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

I will first set the stage with some local context. My riding, Victoria, sits at the tip of an island that is home to nearly 3,000 farms and has a strong tourism sector. Almost one in five service sector jobs on Vancouver Island is connected directly or indirectly to food. However, over the last half century, the balance between locally grown and imported food has tilted dramatically. Once we grew 90% of our food locally; now, we import 90%. Partly for that reason, Victoria is at the leading edge of a trend that we are seeing in communities across the country, and indeed across the world, a growing interest in buying foods that are produced locally.

The majority of Canadians who choose to buy local do it to support farmers as well as their community economy, but they do it for other reasons too. Canadians know that by reducing the distance that our food travels means fresher produce in our kitchens, cleaner air in our communities, and fewer climate-changing emissions across Canada.

Late last year, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Victoria public market. The market is the fruit of years of work by community activists like my friend Philippe Lucas, who wanted a downtown space to connect local farms with urban residents. It has been enormously successful.

My riding is also home to an innovative community organization called LifeCycles, headed up by the indefatigable and imaginative Jeanette Sheehy. LifeCycles partners with municipal governments and public institutions to give residents the tools and skills they need to grow, prepare, and preserve local foods.

In backyards across our city, hundreds of volunteers harvest up to 40,000 pounds of fruit each year, for example. That food is distributed through a network of some 40 agencies, such as food banks and community centres. They also have relationships with businesses supporting their work through social enterprise initiatives, such as selling apples to a local cidery, for example.

LifeCycles also works with eight elementary schools to integrate schoolyard vegetable gardens into their curriculum. Through these programs, more than 750 elementary school students each year learn how to grow their own nutritious food, right in their backyard. LifeCycles is a perfect example of the diverse range of benefits we can see in our economy and our communities when we support local agriculture.

Elsewhere in British Columbia, I would like to acknowledge the work of initiatives like Farm to Cafeteria, a not-for-profit agency, with a ten-year track record of creating and supporting local food projects in public and private institutions. A provincial program called “buy B.C.” works with industry to highlight local food products.

This past weekend, I visited Moss Street Market, one of the remarkable urban neighbourhood markets in Victoria. Like the amazing James Bay market, it is thriving. These neighbourhood markets not only provide an important outlet for local farmers, they serve to create something perhaps even more important: community. They create community. They bring neighbours and families together in an outdoor space to mingle and enjoy each other's company.

In Victoria, across British Columbia, and across Canada, the trend line is clear: the numbers of farmers markets have doubled over the past two decades. Even though we still buy the majority of our food from grocery chains, collaborative efforts by provinces and industries are promoting local foods that people want.

In response, other levels of government have taken action. Municipalities have introduced local procurement programs, and just last year, Ontario and Quebec introduced policies and legislation on local food. Yet, the federal government has no policy to encourage this positive trend. That is why Bill C-539 is so essential.

I am proud to support the bill, as a member of the only party in this House to demonstrate its commitment to supporting Canadian farmers by promoting local foods.

I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleagues, the member for London—Fanshawe and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who tabled bills in the last Parliament to give preference to Canadian products in government procurement and provincial transfers.

Canadians are making their preference for local foods known in the marketplace. Businesses are adapting. Community organizations, like those I mentioned in Victoria, are spreading the social and economic benefits of local agriculture around our communities. Governments at the municipal and provincial levels are waking up and noticing. The federal government must, too, and show some leadership. This bill would provide a road map for doing so.

What would the bill do exactly? First, very thoughtfully, it would enable federal and provincial ministers of agriculture to develop a pan-Canadian strategy to define “local food”, something that is not that easy to get our heads around.

In some cases it is easy, such as on Vancouver Island, where we have set definitions by geography. In other cases it is not so easy, such as in Ottawa and Gatineau. How do we define “local” when products cross provincial borders? How far should the distance be from the marketplace? Those are the sorts of things that need to be addressed as job one, and the bill would do just that.

Secondly, the bill would provide for the development of a local foods procurement policy for government institutions. It would task the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to develop such a policy and to implement it no later than one year after this legislation would come into force.

I also want to emphasize that the bill has shown great sensitivity to the division of powers in the Canadian federation. It would ask the federal government to first consult the provinces and stakeholders, such as producers, before it introduced this pan-Canadian local food strategy, and to develop a policy to encourage government institutions to purchase this food. In other words, the primary goal is to promote locally grown food and support Canadian producers, but always looking out for the division of powers in the Canadian federation so that we can work together, not at cross purposes.

Great care has been taken to confirm that such a local food procurement strategy would be consistent with both our internal trade and international trade obligations. That is very important.

Farmers in Canada are often facing a crisis. In my part of the world, the price of land is absolutely enormous, and it is very difficult to encourage young people to go into farming as a result. Not only that, there is a government at the provincial level that has introduced Bill 24, which appears to be trying to take away the preservation of the agricultural land reserve that was introduced by a former NDP administration to preserve the space and land on which agriculture can take place. That is something which is so vital. I would like to salute the efforts of my colleague, MLA Lana Popham, in trying to address this apparently wrong-headed initiative.

Creating a market for this product, even when agricultural land is so expensive, and when we have issues such as climate change that address what can be grown and where it can be grown, is very difficult. We need to provide as much support to our local farmers as we can. That is what this bill would be all about.

The bill reflects the NDP commitment to sustainable development. When we buy local foods, we reduce transportation distances and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the climate crisis we are facing in Canada today.

By way of conclusion, this bill is sensitive to federal and provincial concerns. It would take into account consultations with the producers, the provinces, and the territories. It would develop a local procurement strategy that would be consistent with our trade agreements. Most of all, it would help sustain something that is so vital, which is local agriculture creating community in our country and giving consumers and farmers what we need as we face the future together.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods. I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, the former deputy environment critic. She is well versed in the principles of sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gases. Her bill reflects that.

First, I must explain that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, is split into two sections. The first requires the federal government to work with the provinces on developing a pan-Canadian strategy. Essentially, we want the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to sit down with his provincial and territorial counterparts, with farmers and distributors and with representatives of civil society in order to develop a common definition of what constitutes local food, which is not yet defined in Canada.

The pan-Canadian strategy will also create a forum for sharing best practices, promoting buy local and co-ordinating the efforts of producers and distributors. II have talked to farmers in the Lower Laurentians over the past three years and realized that they are not necessarily aware of what they can do, what works and the tools that could be made available to them.

Today, farmers are facing considerable challenges including the increase in production costs, international competition, fluctuating prices and natural catastrophes that are increasingly affecting their returns.

By buying local, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of farmers. As my colleagues have already mentioned, the agricultural and agri-food sector is very important to the Canadian economy and generates thousands of jobs. Buying local means cultivating our own economy. That is why we have to sit down together and develop a concerted strategy.

There is no federal policy to promote the purchase of local food. However, a number of provinces have already developed such policies. For example, Quebec developed the Proximité program to encourage buying local. The provinces have taken the lead in promoting local foods. A number of other provinces have worked with the industry to design programs that highlight local products, such as Foodland Ontario, the Buy Local BC program and, of course, Aliments du Québec.

Bill C-539 also calls on the federal government to set an example by developing a local foods procurement policy for federal institutions. There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada, namely agencies, departments, prisons and hospitals. That is quite a few. The federal government can develop a local procurement strategy at these institutions.

What does buy local mean? It means buying products nearby that were cultivated and grown by local people.

During my term as an MP, I have met many farmers and participated in local events that promote local products, such as the Festival de la galette et des saveurs du terroir in Vieux-Saint-Eustache and the Fête Champêtre de la Société d'agriculture Mirabel—Deux-Montagnes to name just a couple.

I support the work being done by the Groupe conseil agricole Outaouais-Laurentide. This group focuses primarily on co-operative activities and on pooling development tools to benefit the community. I have spoken with these farmers and learned that they often work behind the scenes. However, they are passionate and make considerable contributions to our community.

What does buying local mean for consumers? Some Canadians will be surprised to learn that local food does not necessarily cost more than food from another province or food that is imported from elsewhere.

Seasonal food generally costs the same price or even less. A number of studies have proven this. In some cases, the food can cost more as a result of production or distribution costs, but even if the price of local food varies, 42% of consumers are prepared to pay a small supplement for local products if it benefits their region's economy.

Do my colleagues know that if every consumer added $30 of products from Quebec to their grocery cart every year, we would see an increase in sales of over $1 billion over five years and the creation of about 100,000 jobs in all regions of Quebec? That is a big deal. It shows how important buying local is to Quebec's economy.

I want to share some quotes from some people who support Bill C-539. This is from the Union des producteurs agricoles:

We believe that if this bill passes, it will create some attractive opportunities for agri-food products from Quebec and Canada by focusing on their quality and the economic, social and environmental benefits they represent.

I would also like to share a quote from Equiterre:

This bill will help Canadian farmers, create jobs and reduce the pollution associated with transportation. We think this bill is commendable.

I know that my colleague form Beauharnois—Salaberry did her homework in drafting this bill. She consulted farmers and other stakeholders. I am proud to support her bill.

In my role as MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of working with farmers from the region on a number of federal files. For example, I intervened on behalf of Quebec's wine producers regarding the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's intention to develop an ice wine standard.

For those who may not be familiar with my riding, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Rivière du chêne winery in Saint-Eustache is the second-largest winery in Quebec, the largest being the Orpailleur winery in the Eastern Townships. The winery has received many awards at prestigious international competitions, proving that our local products are high-quality products.

I would also like to point out that a group of MPs from the Montreal area submitted a brief before the Montreal metropolitan area adopted its metropolitan land use and development plan. They wanted to stress the importance of maintaining a greenbelt around the Island of Montreal.

I would also like to mention that the NDP has been working on the issue of buying local for some time now. Last year, the hon. member for Welland introduced a buy local bill, Bill C-449, An Act respecting a National Local Food Day. In the last Parliament, the members for Burnaby—New Westminster and London—Fanshawe introduced bills to give priority to Canadian products in the public sector procurement process and transfer payments to the provinces.

It is obvious that this bill is consistent with the NDP's vision of promoting the local economy and sustainable development.

While I was doing research for my speech, I was interested to learn that the number of farmers markets in Canada has doubled since 1990. Between 2004 and 2007, the number of producers who sell directly to consumers increased by 2%. In 2009, there were 2,314 buy local initiatives in Canada. Clearly, consumers want to buy local products. Municipalities and provinces have taken action to promote the idea of buying local.

I believe that the federal government must take a leadership role and sit down with the provinces, stakeholders and experts to help our farmers and develop a buy local strategy.

I invite all of my colleagues in the House to support this bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to support Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. This bill is very important to me.

In my time today, I would like to inject some local flavour into the debate and talk about producers in our regions, who will be the main beneficiaries of this bill. I live in Laval, the suburb north of Montreal. When you talk about Laval, people picture a pretty typical suburb. However, one-third of the land in Laval is agricultural. It includes the very best Saint Lawrence River valley farmland in Quebec. That might come as a surprise to people who do not know my riding. Over 80% of the land in Alfred-Pellan is agricultural. That is a lot of farmland.

People in Laval are extremely proud of our local producers. I am speaking on their behalf today. I have spoken to a number of producers in Alfred-Pellan about Bill C-539. People in Laval are very enthusiastic about the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

If we take a close look at this bill, we see that its main purpose is to promote local foods and support Canadian producers. Its primary goal is to support local producers all across the country. That is because producers are grappling with major challenges such as rising production costs, pressure due to global competition, which is being felt more and more keenly in our ridings, fluctuating prices and natural disasters, which are having an increasingly significant impact on agricultural yields.

By buying locally, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of producers. That is the key element of this bill. Anyone familiar with the challenges facing farmers knows how important it is to find the next generation. Since I was raised in Laval, where I was surrounded by producers, I have a lot of friends who farm and acquaintances who are the next agricultural generation. I have observed that our young people cannot make a go of it in the existing agricultural system.

I would like to give the House a few examples. I am thinking, for example, of my friend Pierre-Luc, of Cultures Chouinard, who does not live in Laval but is from Rivière-du-Loup. He grows squash and potatoes. It was very difficult for him to take over the farm. It is a very large farm that covers a huge area in the St. Lawrence Valley. He did not have the means to take over the family farm and so his family had to give him a large part of the farm.

My neighbours in Auteuil, the Ouimet family, have been growing cabbage for three generations on the Rang des Perron. They have discouraged their three children from farming and have suggested that they study and do something else because agriculture is too difficult for today's youth. They wanted their children to have a better future.

I am also thinking of a friend of my brother's who owns Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François and who has been raising goats for many years. His family has worked hard to raise goats in order to make good local goat cheese. He has always loved this work. The only problem is that there is no future in it because he cannot make a living from the trade that he loves so much. Unfortunately, he is thinking of selling Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François, which is a jewel in eastern Laval.

These are very sad cases. The Conservative government has shown very little initiative when it comes to helping the next and the current generation of farmers. A pan-Canadian strategy that would have the federal government sit down with the provinces, discuss different solutions and establish a platform for best practices by region is a very smart choice.

This situation must not be taken lightly. Farmers from across Canada could tell us what is happening today. Land is being bought by multinationals and local farmers are struggling to survive. They have to keep restructuring and it takes a lot of money and resources to do that. Unfortunately, they are often saddled with debt.

Supporting them with Bill C-539 would be a step in the right direction. It would send the message that the federal government is concerned about our farmers and buying locally and that it is going to invest in this and sit down with the provinces to see what could be done and to establish a pan-Canadian strategy. It would show that we are taking this problem seriously and addressing it as quickly as possible.

Back home in eastern Laval, we are extremely proud to buy locally. We have a number of magnificent farms that are still locally owned and operated and passed down from generation to generation. There are a number of community initiatives organized every year to support these various farmers and provide the locals with easy access to this local food.

There are the neighbourhood farmer's markets in eastern Laval, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-François. This way, a number of local producers can have a stand at these outlets. These pocket markets alternate between two neighbourhoods that, let's face it, are not as well served when it comes to food security.

For example, we have the Aux vieux chênes farm, which is the only sugar shack in eastern Laval. There is also the Vaillancourt farm. Agathe makes delicious jams and has a number of local products to offer. These farms are often represented at the neighbourhood farmer's market in eastern Laval. This wonderful and popular initiative to support our local farmers is starting its third consecutive year this year. This would be a good practice to share with various other players. I am sure there are others across the country. It would be interesting for people to share their experiences.

The Jeunes au Travail farm has undertaken a wonderful initiative. This organization helps troubled youth between the ages of 16 and 25 reintegrate into the labour market through activities such as Ecocert-certified organic farming. The young people grow organic fruits and vegetables on the farm and also cook meals with local products and the products they grow. The organization also provides training and job skills, as well as psychological and social support to these young people who really need it. The organization is training a new generation of people who are aware of local foods, food safety and high-quality products, which is amazing. When the stand is open, I often drop by to commend these young people who are doing an incredible job. I tip my hat to them, because without them, we would have to wonder about the future. This is a wonderful example of what Quebec's next generation can do.

I must also point out that the big supermarket chains are getting increasingly involved in buying local, doing business with farmers and featuring them in their stores, especially in the summer. This is of course easier to do at this time of year. There are great examples from Laval to Mont-Laurier. We are seeing an interest from the public, community organizations, farmers who are trying to make a go of it, and even big chains at the local level.

In conclusion I want to say that I support the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. I hope that my colleagues, regardless of where they sit in the House, will support this bill that is extremely important to all the people I mentioned.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

May 12th, 2014 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise in the House today to defend my bill and to try to convince other members to vote in favour of it. Farmers deserve nothing less.

We tend to forget that farmers do the work needed to meet a vital need, the need to eat. They allow human beings to feed themselves. We often consider farmers from a purely economic standpoint, but they also play a role when it comes to health and basic needs. It is therefore very important that we support all of our farmers, as my colleague from Alfred-Pellan said, as well as any members of the next generation who want to get involved in agriculture, in order to improve the image of our farmers, who work hard day and night to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Here in Canada, that is a rather uncertain undertaking. We have seen proof of this recently. Spring is dragging on and farmers are having to deal with unpredictable weather.

What I am asking the government is very simple. It involves being innovative and showing leadership. It is quite feasible since there are already a number of pan-Canadian strategies out there. All of the stakeholders that I consulted over the past two years, whether it be farmers, people working on agri-food policies, consumers or distributors, want the federal government to sit down with them and with the provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture and agri-food in order to discuss a common definition of buying local. That is no easy task since every region of every province has a different definition and a consensus must be reached.

We must also continue to raise the public's awareness of the importance of buying local and its benefits. As it has been mentioned, foods that are grown locally are fresher and taste better than those coming from other places; moreover, buying local reduces the need for transportation, thereby reducing our ecological footprint. Farming is a sustainable and profitable occupation.

In terms of profits, we need to keep in mind that farmers create more than one in eight jobs in Canada. Each year, they account for 8% of Canada's GDP, contributing more than $100 billion to the Canadian economy. Farming is a vital part of our economy, and we need to support our farmers. To those who are concerned about international free trade agreements, I would simply say that every agreement Canada has signed includes procurement thresholds that allow Canada to buy locally. Many European Union countries and the United States do it. Why not Canada? Why not lead by example and ensure that we are supporting our own farmers?

There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada. During the summer months, our farmers grow their vegetables and other crops, and it is much easier for us to support them. Why not do it? It is easy enough. Our land is full of riches. We need to put this policy into practice. There is plenty of support for it.

I would like to thank all of those who participated in the consultations, including my colleagues and the people in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry. In particular, I would like to thank Sylvain Gascon from the Huntingdon farmers market, who welcomed me with open arms. He gave me plenty of advice and guidance and put me in contact with many people. Denys Van Winden helped me discover the rich land of Jardins-de-Napierville. He also talked to me about the difficulties that farmers are facing and the optimal level of funding from the federal government for research, young farmers and farming practices. I cannot mention everyone who helped, but a number of economic stakeholders supported me as well, including the local development centres in Haut-Saint-Laurent and Beauharnois-Salaberry, the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent conference of regional elected officials, and the Beauharnois–Valleyfield chamber of commerce and industry, which was the first chamber of commerce that decided to support this project. I would also like to say a special thanks to my team members who, for the past two years, have supported me and done everything they could to promote this bill.

I am so grateful to Isabelle Bourassa, Glen, Julie and Jean-Marc. I would also like to thank everyone, NDP and otherwise, who supported the bill. It is heartwarming.

I hope that the federal government will finally step up and sit down with the provinces, municipalities, producers and distributors so that this sector of our economy, which feeds the planet, can succeed and so that our producers can be proud of the work they do.

We need leadership and political will, and we also need common sense because this sector is struggling. Since 2006, 8,000 farm families have had to leave their farms because of the federal government's lack of support and vision. That has had an impact on all regions of Canada.

It is important for everyone here and around the world to be able to eat healthy, local food. I hope that all members will vote in favour of my bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

moved that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to finally speak to my buy local bill. I have worked on this bill for at least two years, in partnership with stakeholders from across the country, including farmers and many other inspiring people.

One of those people was Jack Layton, our first leader, who was a great source of inspiration for me. I spent a lot of time working with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior to develop a pan-Canadian foods strategy that did not exist then, but that exists now or will soon, I hope. I have had a lot of support and advice from two members, our agriculture critics, namely the member for Berthier—Maskinongé and the member for Welland.

The NDP feels it is important to support farmers and buy local because they work the land and grow the food that helps us meet our basic need to eat every day, three times a day. This is essential; it is vital. Farmers receive very little recognition for the work they do. Their work is demanding and takes a lot of time, energy and investment. They do it with passion and they work the land with their own hands. Their work deserves day-to-day support from the federal government, as we have seen with provincial governments and municipal councils.

I became aware of the lack of support for farmers because my riding is primarily agricultural and rural. Of the 31 municipalities in my riding, 29 are rural. Like most MPs, one of the first things I did after being elected was meet local people and key people. I met many farmers. I learned about the Circuit du paysan, a self-guided tour in Quebec that gives people an opportunity to connect with business people and individuals who want to help us discover local products. The Circuit du paysan includes restaurants, hotels and farms in many Quebec ridings where people can stop in and taste local products, wines, farm-raised meats, fruits and vegetables. That was when I started becoming more and more aware of how important it is to recognize the work these people do.

I also started thinking more about buying local when I realized that I did not even know which of the products available in local markets and grocery stores were home-grown. You can find all kinds of products in Montreal at places like the Jean Talon market. I learned all kinds of things from talking to farmers. I talked to people, folks my age, kids, older people. When I asked children where they thought the meat on their plates came from, many of them said it came from the grocery store. They did not realize that all kinds of people were involved. The meat went through a whole process before getting to the grocery store and onto our plates. The same is true of fruits and vegetables.

It is both funny and sad to see that people lack so much information. I really want this bill to become law so that farmers can receive full recognition for the hard work they do.

More and more people are making an effort to look at where the food they buy at the grocery store comes from, to see whether the apples are from the Franklin orchard in my riding or from Chile. Did the apples travel 10,000 kilometres or just 30 kilometres to get to our grocery store shelves? This has an impact that goes beyond economics. It has an impact on health because there are different food safety requirements for Canadian products than for products from other countries.

It has an environmental impact that I will get into later. To buy locally is to buy products nearby that were cultivated and grown by local people that we know.

It seems like a simple concept to buy locally, but when you dig a little deeper you see that there are a number of obstacles that farmers have to overcome before they can have direct contact with consumers. It could be the cost of transportation. For fruits and vegetables to leave the orchards or the fields, they have to be transported by truck, train, or boat. That costs money. Labelling and packaging also cost money.

There are distribution challenges. There are a number of organizations that try to set up farmers' markets and organize drop-off sites for basket delivery in order to make it easier for people to access local products.

There is also a lack of public awareness. One of the realities in Canada is that we have a winter season. Our farmers cannot really provide food to the major supply chains throughout the year, which makes it more difficult for them to get their products into the major supermarket chains, for example. We have to think about that.

The federal government must do more to raise awareness about what fruits and vegetables grow in Canada, in which regions and in which seasons and to promote eating seasonally. People should know which fruits, vegetables and meats are available in winter even though farmers and market gardeners are not working their land during this season because of the cold. There is a great deal of information that needs to be made available to the public.

People who have contacted me via email, Facebook and social networks and those I have met at local markets have told me that they support this, that they agree with the principle and that they want to encourage farmers, but that they do not know where to start.

Grocery stores are making more efforts to develop buy local policies, but there is still work to be done. We could create sections in convenience stores, we could have more farmers markets and more drop-off locations where farmers could sell their goods. At present, accessibility is a problem.

There are seniors who do not have a car or who have limited mobility and would like to have a grocery store or a pick-up location in their neighbourhood. This does not yet exist. We know very well that seniors are vulnerable, that their health is fragile and that they need to eat nutritious fruits and vegetables.

People often tell me that they do without this kind of food because they cannot afford it. It is not right that a 2-litre bottle of Pepsi costs less than a litre of fresh juice, that junk food is less expensive than healthy food. Why is food that is grown locally so expensive?

We need government action to help everyone to eat well and have access to this food.

Despite these obstacles, more and more Canadians are buying local and have consciously decided to support local farmers. This is not only because it is good for our health, but also because the agriculture sector accounts for 8% of Canada's GDP every year. This means that one out of every eight jobs in Canada is created in the farming sector.

This all translates into $101 billion added to government coffers every year. Imagine how much we would have if everyone dedicated $5 more to buying local every time they went grocery shopping. That number came from a farmer in my region, a market gardener named Denys Van Winden.

He told me that spending just $5 to buy local would make a big difference. It would allow farmers to live better and not simply get by. It would also create more opportunities for consumers to buy directly from farmers. Since 2006, we know that over 8,000 family farms have shut down because of cuts in the agri-food sector. They are having a hard time finding people to take over their farms, because the business is so precarious, harsh and difficult. We need to fix this situation and the federal government needs to do its part to help farmers, whom we need so much.

This bill is the result of two series of consultations held with farmers, distributors and people who have developed food policies across Canada. I could talk about my own consultations. I do not wish to name everyone, however, among those people, both nationally and locally, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture supported this bill. The UPA, Farm to Cafeteria Canada, the Coalition pour la souveraineté alimentaire, several independent retailers, supermarkets, major food chains and many Canadians also answered the call. They are saying that this is important and that they want the federal government to get more involved.

My bill is twofold. First, it demands that the federal government implement a pan-Canadian strategy in co-operation with the provinces. We want the federal Minister of Agriculture to sit down not only with his provincial and territorial counterparts, but also with farmers and distributors. We want all these people at the same table to discuss, among other issues, a common definition of buying local, because right now there is no such definition. All the provinces have slightly different definitions.

Then, we want them to set up a forum for discussing and sharing information on best practices. Currently, each province does certain things, but farmers are not necessarily aware of what can be done, what works and the tools that could be put at their disposal. It is important that people can sit together, face each other and have meaningful discussions.

Second, my bill asks the government to develop a local foods procurement policy in federal buildings. There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada, namely agencies, departments, prisons and hospitals. This means that some 28,000 cafeterias could make more room for local foods produced by our farmers. This would make a huge difference and I hope we can get that far, because it would show a clear political will on the part of the federal government.

We must help producers overcome many challenges. There is also the workforce, which is currently very hard to find because the agricultural sector requires long hours of manual labour, especially for certain specific periods. Therefore, we must make a difference. If we do not buy locally, who will? We must really get involved and put our shoulders to the wheel.

In Canada, there are already over 2,300 local initiatives that the government could help promote and develop across the country. It is important that the Government of Canada do its share and that we can encourage our farmers to continue to innovate. It is not easy right now. They are so squeezed that they find it difficult to just survive. In order for farmers to continue feeding us and help reduce our environmental footprint, we must support them in their work. That is why this Canadian strategy makes so much sense.

I hope all members will support my efforts and vote in favour of this bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the member coming forward with this bill. As a farmer and a big proponent of local produce, I think it is a very good bill.

I have some questions. I realize that the minister has to engage and talk to his provincial counterparts, which is very important, but in order for the bill to succeed, we have to be talking to all institutions, especially grocery stores. We have only two or three chain stores in the country, and almost 80% of people buy their products from them. What does the member suggest the minister or the government do to put things in place that would ensure that the grocery stores follow suit and are involved with the process to make sure her bill is successful?

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his questions.

This would require the federal government to sit down with its provincial counterparts and with distributors. Most major food chains already have local buying policies, and all they are asking for is to sit down with federal and provincial elected officials to establish best practices and to ensure that local products are marketed and that people are encouraged to buy them. Farmers would jump for joy if they could sit down with these people. That is what they would like to do.

I have spoken to people from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, with people from the UPA and with people from Équiterre. I also spoke to many people in the field. They all hope that this meeting will happen, so that we can move forward and set clear guidelines and criteria. Nothing exists at the moment, so they are anxious to get going.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the member's notice that there is such a thing as an Agreement on Internal Trade. That AIT applies to all food procurement that exceeds $25,000 and requires that the federal government not discriminate against Canadian suppliers. I wonder if she could comment on how her bill would conflict with the agreement on internal trade.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member just said, there are procurement thresholds for contracts over $25,000. I asked that question to Public Works and Government Services Canada representatives. The government has awarded a number of contracts for food products. In 2012-13, it awarded nine purchasing contracts totalling $112,494. That is still not at the maximum. Those nine contracts are under $25,000. I think we can increase the number of these contracts that comply with international agreements because they are under the $25,000 threshold. I think we can continue in this way. A number of governments around the world do this, including the United States, the European Union and Nova Scotia. A number of governments already do this, so I do not see why Canada could not encourage its own farmers.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her excellent bill.

She mentioned several things, including the health of our fellow citizens. As she said, we are living in an era of junk food, and we can clearly see the impact of poor nutrition on the young and old. I think it is important to point that out in the House.

I have a question I would like to ask her about her bill and the provisions she has included in it. She spoke of economic benefits for the agricultural community, which seems to be dwindling. There is a shift in population to urban centres. How will the bill help maintain and even boost the economy of those regions?

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for her question.

This bill is designed to encourage government institutions to sign local procurement contracts, which will help people eat better and help put more money in our farmers' pockets. That way, farmers can keep expanding, hiring young people, creating small family farms and, I hope, supplying farmers' markets that are close to home. This bill would also contribute to people's health because the local food movement provides more affordable food and seeks to deliver a greater number of healthy products through all short distribution channels.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry for starting this important debate on supporting local food production.

Canada is a truly fortunate country. We have a robust agricultural sector that is able to meet the needs of local, national and international consumers. We have land and natural resources that foster a diverse agricultural sector. Our agricultural sector employs one out of every eight Canadians and plays a significant role in the health of our economy. As Canadians, we can certainly say that we are lucky.

With this in mind, our government recognizes the good intentions of this bill. However, in a practical light, we question whether Canadians would truly support legislation that would only add a layer of bureaucracy to the local food movement, a movement that is already succeeding in many regions across Canada. Do we really want to add red tape, regulations, and complications to our farmers' markets, community gardens, and co-ops? Do we want to compromise the livelihood of farmers who depend on international markets to sell their crops? The answer is no.

Across different levels of government in Canada there is already strong support for locally grown food. Our approach at the federal level is to focus on national efforts to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of Canadian agriculture, such as through funding initiatives like Farmers' Markets Canada, which is a national organization representing farmers' markets across the country.

While our government wholeheartedly supports the purchasing of locally grown food by citizens and residents, we recognize that provincial governments have a key role to play in defining what local foods are. We will continue to work with interested provinces, because we are committed to keeping the playing field fair by not favouring one farmer over another or one region over another. Together we want to break down the internal barriers to trade in this country.

The bottom line is that our government will ensure that farmers who market locally have the same opportunities as farmers who export to world markets. In fact, many farmers do both.

While the idea of a pan-Canadian strategy for local foods is well-meant, we must remember that trade accounts for a large portion of our farmers' sales. Canadian farmers export to 189 countries around the world. Our agriculture and food exports have been on a growth curve for a number of years. For 2013, all signs point to another record of close to $50 billion.

However, trade is a two-way street. That is why we have to be very careful about federal policies that legislate local foods and about rules related to government procurement, as advocated in this bill. We cannot expect our trading partners to play by the rules if we are not prepared to do so as well.

Canada has made a commitment to follow the non-discriminatory rules contained in various multilateral and bilateral trade agreements. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement requires Canada to treat suppliers of our trading partners no differently than they treat local suppliers. The problem with this bill is that the proposed measures could be inconsistent with Canada's international commitments. This would send the wrong message to our trading partners.

Our government understands the need to respect our international and interprovincial trade obligations, because we need to keep markets open for Canadian agricultural products. Our government understands that trade is important, and we understand the needs of farmers. That is why, through our cost-shared programs, under Growing Forward 2, we are empowering the provinces and territories to support locally grown foods through market development initiatives in their jurisdictions.

Our commitment to farmers and our investments in science are helping to ensure that Canada's food comes from the best farming practices right across the country. For example, in Quebec, our researchers are currently working on helping farmers meet the emerging demand for foods with probiotic benefits. In Atlantic Canada, we are developing more varieties of value-added crops, such as short-season soybeans. New varieties like these could increase farm revenues by an estimated $100 million.

In British Columbia, field and lab studies are helping to minimize the environmental impact of nitrates in surface and groundwater. Groundbreaking research is helping to protect the environment while maintaining optimum crop production.

Work is also under way to build upon the challenges of producing food in the north. This means developing traits that can thrive in colder climates and creating new economic opportunities all the time. In Yukon, for example, our investments are helping farmers to sell their products by promoting local food production and increasing public awareness of Yukon-grown food.

Our government has also partnered with the Province of British Columbia to deliver a pilot project that will give ranchers the opportunity to process and market their beef locally. This will bring more dollars into their businesses while boosting the local economy and respecting our international trade obligations.

Provincial and territorial governments play a direct, growing role in initiatives that support, promote and market local food products. Several provinces are implementing local food production strategies, including Ontario, which recently passed the Local Food Act, 2013.

The need for a national strategy was not a major issue during federal-provincial-territorial meetings. To be honest, a pan-Canadian strategy could be seen as federal interference in provincial or municipal affairs.

Bill C-539 would also undermine Canada's credibility on the international stage. If we do not apply the rules, our trade partners will. We need to be very careful with policies that favour local food production or that restrict government contracts, as this bill is designed to do.

According to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other international trade agreements, Canada must treat its trade partners' suppliers the same way it treats its local suppliers. We are also addressing the objectives set out in Bill C-539 by supporting local food production through our funding for growing forward 2.

In light of all these considerations and with all due respect, we cannot support Bill C-539.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

March 27th, 2014 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess I am not shocked that the Conservatives are against this bill. Well, I am shocked, because what better bill could there be for farmers and consumers in this country? I am not saying that some of the initiatives the government has for local produce are not good, but we cannot be cherry-picking certain areas. What we are looking at in this bill, if I can repeat what the hon. member over here said, is more of a Canadian strategy in working with the provinces.

What gets me is when the Conservatives say other countries might get angry with us or call it a bit of a barrier. I have some articles here out of the U.S., and here are some of the programs the United States has. One initiative is called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food”. This is right out of the United States, one of the trade partners that is going to have a big problem with our promoting local food. It states:

In 2009, USDA launched the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, an agency wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. As part of the initiative, several funding efforts and programs were announced to assist farmers, help consumer's access nutritional foods, and support rural community development.

The Americans are going to be really mad at us on this one.

Here is another program that the USDA has in the United States. It is called the agricultural marketing service program. It states:

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service administers several grant programs supporting local food initiatives across the country. The Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) provides matching funds to State agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for food and agricultural products, and encourage research to improve the performance of the food marketing system. In 2009, 8 out of 23 grants awarded went to projects supporting local foods, such as funding to improve the effectiveness of Colorado MarketMaker.