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NDP goes green in ag platform

Funding for organic farming, “green” farming, farmer co-ops and farm safety nets are on Jack Layton’s to-fund list in the New Democratic Party’s new agriculture platform.

NDP leader Layton released the party’s full platform Sunday in Toronto, with just over two weeks before a federal election. Among other points, the NDP’s platform proposes a series of “pan-Canadian, sector-based” strategies for various Canadian industries. Among those are the agriculture-and-food and fish-and-food-processing sectors.

“Experts agree we need a pro-active plan to keep our country, our industries, and our workforce in a leading global position,” the party wrote in its platform.

Sector-based strategies, the party said, will be accompanied by a “systematic review of sector-specific tax measures” with an eye toward cutting out “those that are economically or environmentally counterproductive.

“We will add new measures to stimulate investment in the broader public interest,” the party said.

Among its measures related specifically to farming, the NDP proposes a “Canadian organic food and agriculture strategy” that would include:

  • a ban on the use of so-called “terminator” seeds and protection for “every farmer’s right to choose, save and control their seeds;”
  • transition funding for education, equipment and training for farmers who want to move to organic or “bio-intensive integrated pest management” systems of agriculture; and
  • support for independent ag extension workers to facilitate environment-friendly farming methods, including reduced tillage, water conservation and reduced fertilizer and pesticide use.

“Entrench” the CWB

The party also pledged to ensure “that the preservation of orderly Canadian marketing systems, and the elimination of predatory export practices and subsidies are key priorities” in domestic policy as well as in international trade talks.

On the orderly marketing front, the party pledges to “entrench the Canadian Wheat Board as the single-desk marketer for Canadian wheat and barley, and commit Canadian policy to the principle of orderly marketing systems for commodity sectors.”

Further, it said it will work with farm groups and the provinces to put in place “income stabilization programs that are consistent with our international trade obligations and approaches, tailored for each commodity sector, and focused on the family farms that most need the support.” It also said it will “improve access to farm safety net funding for natural disasters and poor markets, particularly for small farms.”

The party said it would “redress the imbalances of economic power between producers and agri-business corporations,” which would mean, among other things, imposing limits on packers’ ownership of cattle.

It also aims to back the development of more producer-run co-operatives “to act as a counterweight to the power of multinational agribusiness giants, and to encourage more value-added processing and jobs in Canada.”

Food safety

The NDP’s platform on food safety issues includes pledges to “work in consultation with consumers, workers and industry” to:

  • add more inspectors at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and boost administrative support so inspectors can spend more time on the floor and less on paperwork;
  • introduce regulations on line speed in meat processing plants to match existing requirements in the European Union, a move the NDP said will reduce worker injuries, improve meat quality and ensure greater safety of products;
  • improve the system for warning families of food safety problems with consistent policies for immediate public notification;
  • mandate labeling for genetically engineered foods and farmed fish; and
  • require “full accuracy and accountability” for labels that state “Made in Canada.”

Canadians go to the polls Oct. 14. A Harris-Decima poll released Monday by the Canadian Press puts the NDP at 19 per cent support nationwide, behind the Conservatives at 36 per cent and Liberals at 26 per cent, but ahead of the Green Party at nine per cent and Bloc Quebecois at eight per cent.

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