Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mussell issues food policy paper

Al Mussell of Agri-Food Economic Systems has issued a call for all those advising the federal government on its first national food policy to pull together.

He says it would be a mistake for the various groups, such as processors, retailers, health advocates and farm organizations to stick with their own people.

"Stakeholders will need to be brought together in such a manner that they will be prepared to depart from camp orthodoxy and see the value in compromise, informed by evidence," he wrote in a news release this week.

"To be made real, this will require engagement of provincial and territorial governments, and a coordinated process implemented for facilitation of the dialogue, as suggested in the formation of a National Food Policy Council.

"Many of the stakeholders are new to agri-food policy, and it will take time and coordination to build trust among the groups.
"This should be an ongoing, evolving process- and not a push toward some short-term outcome that is celebrated and then set in stone, not to be revisited again for ten years”, says Mussell. 

“We shouldn’t expect dramatic changes in policy direction; but a broader more inclusive agri-food policy may be possible if we can work at this over time”.

Frankly, I think the federal government has missed the boat and it's too late to craft a national food policy.

Processors and retailers have become so large that they are used to bullying to achieve their single-minded focus on profits.

Farmers are becoming ever more splintered by powerful supply-management marketing boards, by region, by the evolution of multi-million-dollar family-farm corporations and by specializing in only one of the several commodities that used to characterize family farming.

In short, the only thing they seem to have in common now is driving hard to maximize profits. 

And that has given rise to activists who are suspicious and critical of the agri-food complex. It is one of the reasons for the rise of animal rights, anti-GMO, anti-pesticide and similar groups.

The general public is confused by all of this, ignorant about most of what's happening in farming, food processing, retailing and international commodity trading, but it knows it's not happy. And then along comes price fixing by two, and perhaps more, of the industry's largest players.

This is poor soil in which to grow a national food policy.