Thank you very much for the questions.
Certainly we need political will. A shift in direction would need to take place, and it would include looking at our trade agreements. We need to, for instance, continue to defend supply management. Supply management isn't perfect, and there are ways of making it better, but fundamentally it matches demand to the need and keeps the production in Canada and local. That's a very strong policy approach that we already have, and it is under attack globally. In the trade arena, we need to keep our eye on supply management while we're working to make it better and serve the needs of small farmers and new farmers entering into agriculture.
We also need to look at new trade agreements like the Canadian-European trade agreement, which, as we understand it, would prohibit the protection of local food procurement. That's something I hope MPs are looking at closely. When a new trade agreement comes up, is it affecting what we're already trying to do to protect Canadian food and Canadian food production and processing?
We've touched a bit on some of the concrete elements we would propose for a local and sustainable food strategy, but I'll run through them.
The first would be a kind of a paradigm shift from viewing export as the main goal for Canadian agriculture to acknowledging the broader environmental, social, and environmental benefits to shifting resources into the country to support local and sustainable food systems—hand in hand with trade, yes, but not this massive emphasis on trade and very little support for local and sustainable. That would need better integration, because fundamentally food—and that's why we're talking about a national food strategy—covers the departments of agriculture, health, trade, environment, and education. Maybe we need a minister of food who would have some kind of interministerial responsibility and could look at how all these things connect.
Then we need to look at the supply side and the demand side. On the supply side, as we were discussing earlier, we need more farmers and new farmers. We get a lot of new Canadians into the country with farming backgrounds. It would be great to be able to support them into farming and to be able to support young farmers, as we were discussing earlier. I mentioned that we've lost 62% of our farmers under 35 in a 15-year period.
We need to rebuild the middle of our value chain. We were talking about this, and I believe we share a lot with the Alberta Food Processors Association in this sense, which is that we need to also support small-scale food processors. They need help with R and D support for small-scale processing, as well as changes in inspection to favour decentralization and diversity in scale, so that some small producer who has five employees isn't dealing with the same intensity of inspection that some of the larger processors are.
Support for supply management is one of the concrete elements, as I said.
Transition to sustainable agriculture is a big one. Many industrial agricultural farmers, let's say—larger farmers who are producing using chemical methods—they would like to shift to more ecological methods, whether that's organic or not. We need to support that shift, not place the burden uniquely on them. At the same time, we need to look at changes in the way we do livestock and meat processing. All those details are in the document I circulated.
On the demand side, it would start with a huge overhaul of our education approach. We need to be able to put forward the benefits of local and sustainable food, in formal and informal channels at all levels. A lot of community organizations are doing this already to support some of the work.
For example, I was talking about FoodShare, which runs regional food hubs that bring in fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers and make them available at affordable rates to schools. It also has an incredible education curriculum, point by point for each grade from kindergarten on, around cooking, around food, around nutrition, around health. By the end, when they graduate, they know how to access and prepare healthy food. These are lifelong skills.
We also need these large-scale shifts in procurement policies that I was talking about. To me this is really fundamental. This is systemic change. We need to look at procurement and making the procurement have more Canadian sustainable standards.
We need clear labelling. As Ted Johnston was saying, it's crazy that Canadians can't walk into a grocery store and easily identify what is Canadian. We would take that one step further and say there should also be “sustainable local” labelling so that people can see that it's meeting certain standards on environment and all other aspects that are included in sustainability.
The last element is simplifying procurement—aggregating, bringing producers together with intermediaries who can make it easy to buy local and sustainable food.
We really feel that these elements of the strategy very much address what the outcomes are that we're looking for in a new Growing Forward strategy. Four priorities have been named, and two of them are adaptability and sustainability. Managing risk, anticipating change, adjusting to the market and environmental pressures, and maintaining our resources—the local and sustainable food strategy hits all of those key outcomes that we're looking for.
In terms of how we can work together, the food movement makes up the innovators and the entrepreneurs of the local sustainable food system in Canada. They have started small across the country. There are thousands of fantastic projects from coast to coast to coast. Taking a really good look at that and seeing which ones would make sense to scale up, which ones need support, which ones need enabling through policy—these would have real structural changes on our food system.
We don't need to spend a lot of government money developing new programs or doing a lot of research studies. We can look at what's being done on the ground across the country and build on that. Food Secure Canada and our membership would be very happy to participate in a joint exercise of that nature with government.