After many years of calling on various governments to implement a local food policy that allows farmers access to local markets, increasing local food consumption and awareness in the province, an opportunity arose to support and implement legislation that would strengthen the agriculture industry, provide farmers access to government and institutional contracts and teach food production skills in schools.
In January 2015 when members of the NFU-NB board of directors met with the new Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, Hon. Rick Doucet, we asked for a local food strategy to protect NB farmers, the NB agriculture industry and the health of New Brunswickers. The Minister said that he did not believe that local food could legislated, that it needed to come from consumer demand to be effective. The Minister also asked the NFU to continue to provide stop headaches now com on a local food strategy and said that he would invite all the stakeholders to a meeting to discuss the topic. It is now May and no date has been set for this meeting.
In February 2015, Fredericton South MLA David Coon presented Bill 11, Local Food Security Act to the NB Legislature.
Food security is reliable access to safe, affordable, nutritious food for all people at all times. While this is a very important aim, it does not include farmers or other food producers. That is why in 1996 La Via Campesina, NFU’s international partner organization, defined food sovereignty, which is the fundamental right of all peoples, nations and states to control food and agricultural systems and policies, ensuring everyone has adequate, affordable nutritious and culturally appropriate food. While entitled the Local Food Security Act, Bill 11 went beyond the traditional definition of food security and strongly considered the role of farmers and other food producers. Read Bill 11 here.
The NFU-NB wrote to Minister Doucet expressing our support for this legislation immediately and publically supported it through a media release and subsequent press coverage. While the NFU-NB is a non-partisan organization we remain a supporter of local food security legislation for the province. During the first half of the debate on April 23 the Minister called for the bill to be defeated. As a result, in support of the bill the NFU wrote another letter to the Minister and was able to have a last minute phone meeting with him. We organized an online petition which in only 3 days collected over 650 signatures. We organized a rally in front of the legislature to which over 30 people attended. Over 50 people, with one-third NFU-NB members, entered the legislature to hear the final 30 minutes of debate and listen to the vote. Public support for local food security legislation was clear and lack of public support can no longer be used as a reason for government to put off creating this type of legislation.
While the Liberal government unanimously voted against the bill, despite many good conversations with Liberal MLAs who seemed to support the legislation, the conversation has been brought back to the forefront. During the rally, Minister Doucet pledged to bring the stakeholders around the table to develop a local food strategy by fall 2015. We will work alongside the Minister and the department as a local food strategy is developed. The NFU-NB will continue to stand up for NB farmers’ rights and support them with a strategy that will feed the people of the province local, healthy, affordable food that allows farmers to make a living wage for their work.
Supporting Local Food by Law Interview with Amanda Wildeman, NFU-NB Executive Director on CBC’s The Shift, April 29, 2015
CBC’s New Brunswick News (Story begins at 27m15s) – April 30, 2015
Fredericton rejette un projet de loi qui aurait donné la préférence aux aliments locaux, Radio-Canada, April 30, 2015
Liberals defeat Coon’s food bill, NB Media Coop, April 30, 2015
N.B. farmers vow to continue push for legislation after local food security bill defeated, Global News, April 30, 2015
Radio-Canada Nouvelles 18h (Entrevue commence à 5m17s) – April 30, 2015