On Tuesday, the Ontario government re-tabled a bill that had been lost to the proroguing of the legislation in 2012. The Local Food Act, also known as Bill 130, is now being reintroduced in the Ontario Legislature.
The Act starts with the following preamble:
Ontario has robust and resilient local food systems: a highly productive agricultural land base, a favourable climate and water supply, efficient transportation and distribution systems, and knowledgeable, innovative farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers and restaurateurs. These resources help ensure that local food systems thrive throughout the province, allowing Ontarians to know where their food comes from and connect with those who produce it.
The Act is designed to strengthen these local food systems by providing new market opportunities for local producers, raising the profile of local food and ensuring that the provincial government reports on progress around local food consumption. If passed, the Act would:
1. Increase local food awareness, access and sales by setting local food goals.
2. Enable government to work with public sector organizations to reach those goals and share information on their progress and results.
3. Establish a "Celebrate Ontario Local Food Week".
4. Require the government to produce a local food report on its activities to support local food.
We already know that buying local has a significant impact. In 2003, the Waterloo Region carried out a study titled, Growing Food and Economy. It concluded that for every job in the agricultural sector, an additional four jobs are supported in the wider economy. In addition, the study pointed out that each dollar of farm income generates an additional $2.40 in sales in the local economy!
As Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food, Kathleen Wynne, notes: "Eating local isn't just good for Ontario families - it's good for our economy. That's why our government will continue to work with the agri-food sector, including retailers and food service operators, to bring more Ontario food to the table."
Building from the extensive work which has been done to support the local food movement throughout the province, the Act will provide a new impetus to move to the next level and engage even more Ontarians in understanding the economic, social and environmental benefits of supporting local food.
I find these new developments encouraging. What leaves me puzzled, however, is the fact that, at the same time as we are seeing growing interest in promoting and buying local food, there is a push, at the national level, to negotiate CETA, which could significantly undermine our capacity to give preference to local food over European imports... How would CETA and A Local Food Act co-exist?