Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Fredericton, NB
Dear Premier Gallant,
During last week’s interview on CBC’s Information Morning a caller asked what your government is doing to attract and support new farmers. You responded that the Agriculture Summit held last fall in Grand Falls was a success and that supporting new farmers is something that was heard loud and clear. You also said that you welcomed feedback and guidance as how exactly to go about stop leukemia info com supports for new farmers. Below are some ideas on programs and processes that are currently being reviewed or that have been recently changed by your government.
1. Maintain and develop rural infrastructure. Nearly half of NB’s population lives in rural areas. Hundreds of residents who use the Gagetown Ferry rallied at the legislature last month and were largely ignored by your government. Yes, for the average visitor, it is only a 34 km detour to go out to Highway 2 and back. However, if someone is moving wagon loads of hay or a tractor to the other side of the river, not only will the trip now take most of the day but it will be incredibly unsafe for farmers and other motorists, particularly when crossing the bridge over the Saint John River. While the Gagetown Ferry is a top of mind example, maintaining rural infrastructure is not just about the ferry, it is also about rural schools, clinics and other services.
2. Open the Day Care Assistance program for farmers and small business owners. The first years of any new business are lean and many, many extra hours are dedicated to getting it off the ground and farming is no different. Farm families are currently excluded from the Day Care Assistance program. The reasons farmers have been told they ineligible have been varied and inconsistent. Child care is a real factor for farm families, one that is important enough to dissuade new farmers from creating a career for themselves in farming.
3. Amend the Tuition Access Bursary program. By including only the six publically funded institutions in the province, the TAB program inherently excludes all students wishing to study agriculture as the nearest programs are in Nova Scotia, Quebec or Ontario. Not all students wanting to farm will attend agriculture college, however a diploma or degree in agriculture is increasingly becoming a pre-requisite for both bank loans and government loan programs including the New Entrant Farmer Loan program.
4. Institute a provision for local content in all government food service contracts. A recent study published by the CéD’ici estimates that if just 75% of the schools in the province replicated their model of cafeteria, café and catering service, which includes sourcing at least 30% of their food locally, sales of over $29M would be generated and that it would ultimately contribute over $12M to the provincial GDP. This does not include hospitals, nursing homes or daycares, so the estimates are merely a fraction of the total economic impact that a buy local purchasing policy could create for both farmers and other local food businesses.
5. Include agriculture and home-economics courses in the curriculum again. Food literacy is very important when talking about overall health. Many schools have been successfully launching gardens, home economics and cooking classes. Guidance counsellors and career counsellors need more training on farming and agriculture related careers. The current curriculum review is a great opportunity to ensure that essential food skills, food system knowledge and farming skills are included at all levels of education, so that students are aware that farming is, indeed, a real career option.
Why does this matter? Well, in 2011 only 235 of NB farmers were under the age of 35. We have an abundance of unused or underused agricultural land, a renewable resource that compared to the rest of the country is relatively affordable. The opportunities are so good that they are being taken advantage of by investment companies, which begs a few questions: if it’s good enough for investment companies why isn’t investing in agriculture good enough for our government? Who do we want owning our land? Who do we want controlling our food supply?
Let’s invest in NB’s new farmers so that to strengthen our local food economy, stimulate rural entrepreneurship and employment and increase the amount of healthy, affordable, locally grown food that can be available all year round. We look forward to meeting with you to further discuss how this interdepartmental collaboration can work together as part of a larger government strategy to grow more farmers in New Brunswick.
National Farmers Union in NB
Cc. Hon. Rick Doucet, Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries