QUEEN’S PARK – NDP Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Critic Howard Hampton is urging the McGuinty Liberals to provide a local market for struggling farmers by requiring government agencies to purchase local food. “Announcing grants to encourage voluntary local food purchasing is not enough to help farmers who are struggling to compete with cheap food imports,” said Hampton. “The government also needs to put in place win-win local procurement policies that will spark demand for local farm products, reduce pollution from food transport, and encourage healthier eating and reduced health costs.”
Yesterday the provincial government announced Greenbelt Fund grants to encourage public sector institutions to buy Ontario food. Hampton says much more needs to be done. The NDP’s “Government of Ontario Buy Local Food Act,” which requires all government ministries to purchase at least 20% local food by 2015, passed first reading on September 23, 2010. But the McGuinty government has yet to support second reading for the bill or introduce their own local procurement legislation.
“The McGuinty government made the announcement at a Toronto day care because Toronto has a local food procurement policy that’s working,” said Hampton. “Jurisdictions like Illinois and Nova Scotia are moving ahead with strong local procurement policies while this government is failing to ensure that Ontario farmers have access to markets to keep their farms viable.”
Hampton noted that 750,000 jobs in Ontario rely on a strong farm sector, the survival of which is threatened by the growth of imports of low quality food.