LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Resolutions to remember in the new year

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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January 13, 2004: Here's a list of resolutions to remember in this New Year:

  • Include the sustainability principle in the Canadian vision for agriculture;
  • Increase investment in agricultural programs with environmental benefits;
  • Increase incentives for the research, construction and expansion of the bio-fuels sector;
  • Establish a national network of development agencies to ensure rural economic growth;
  • Recognize the unique needs of different rural communities for infrastructure spending purposes;
  • Eliminate impediments to farmer-owned enterprises in Canada;
  • Assist farmers to identify and develop production, processing and market opportunities for specialty, niche and ethnic foods at home and abroad;
  • Recognize in federal programs the role of small and medium-sized farms in providing agricultural products, environmental and aesthetic benefits and vitality to rural communities;
  • Support the intergenerational transfer of farms by changing tax laws that make transfers difficult; and
  • Undertake to do systematic five-year reviews of agricultural policies, programs and funding to keep abreast of rapidly changing times.

This is a great list for making Canadian agriculture stronger, more vital, interesting and future oriented. Imagine the language of sustainability in all federal programs and policies. More investment in agricultural programs that result in environmental benefits would be guaranteed to follow.

Imagine a network of agencies dedicated to rural development. Imagine the result: many economic opportunities that complement, rather than depend on, agricultural development. Rural infrastructure development could throw off its parroting as "urban knock-off" and refocus on the uniqueness of our countryside.

Imagine the new jobs and economic spin-off from an import replacement program for the billions now spent by Canadian's on food imports. Imagine a rewrite of federal programs - programs that work for small and medium-sized family farms - the farms that deliver the multi-benefits of quality food, viable rural communities, aesthetic benefits and environmental enhancements. Farm safety nets would be linked to real and valuable services delivered for society - not linked to averages of free-falling farm gate prices at the mercy of subsidized international production and a rising Canadian dollar.

This is a great list of resolutions. It champions sustainability, builds on the synergies between agriculture and the countryside and honours the contribution of the family farm. But, wait! I've borrowed this list! These recommendations for Canadian agriculture appear in a document written in October 2002, "Securing Agriculture's Future: Invest Today -- Prosper Tomorrow." The writers were a dozen Liberal members of Parliament structured as the Prime Minister's Caucus Task Force on Future Opportunities in Farming. The Task Force's chair was none other than Bob Speller, now our federal Minister of Agriculture. In 2004, let's help Bob Speller remember his resolutions for agriculture.

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Recommended reading:
"Securing Agriculture's Future: Invest Today Prosper Tomorrow"

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