NDP platform pledges lower-cost BRM programs

More accessible business risk management programming, more food inspectors and more detailed food labelling are among the federal New Democrats’ farm policy planks leading up to a May 2 general election.

NDP leader Jack Layton unveiled the party’s election platform Sunday in Toronto, pledging a “Canadian Food Strategy that will combine health goals, environmental goals, food quality objectives, local and organic choices for consumers across the country.”

The farm-level planks of the party’s platform commit an NDP-led government to work with provincial governments to provide “easily accessible business risk management programs for farmers, that cost less.”

BRM programs, the party said, would be “streamline(d)” in consultation with the provinces, while the programs would be made more accessible by “cutting accounting fees.”

For crop producers dependent on rail to get exports to port, the NDP would also seek a review of railway freight tariffs “that have been gouging Canadian farmers across the country.”

The party said it will also “work to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s agriculture by encouraging young farmers to take up farming.”

Farmers already in the business would see “enhanced skill training (and) mentorship programs” on offer. The NDP said it would also work to ensure that “arable land is more widely available.”

Moving down to the food processing links of the value chain, the NDP platform calls for the hiring of “200 new food inspectors” for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which would also see boosts in its capacity to “prevent, detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.”

The agency would also get the muscle to ensure imported foods “meet the same environmental and health standards that apply to food produced in Canada,” the party said.

The party said an NDP-led government would also enact legislation to require “proper” labeling of food, which would include “information on its origin, its nutritional value and whether it is genetically modified or not.”

Among other ag-related policy planks, the NDP’s platform calls for:

  • working with the provinces and territories to reinstate federal financial incentives for “clean power” such as solar, wind, water, tidal, biomass and other renewable sources for electricity production as well as for power from industrial co-generation;
  • supporting “community-owned renewable energy facilities;”
  • a “Green Bond Fund” for Canadians to invest in green energy research, development and commercialization as well as “community-scale renewable projects;” and
  • support for the Canadian Wheat Board as “the single-desk marketer for Canadian wheat and barley.”

For the pre-election agriculture debate, booked for Monday (April 11) in Ottawa, the NDP will be represented by Pat Martin, an inner-city Winnipeg MP and the party’s assistant Canadian Wheat Board critic.

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