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Food Strategy Off To A Promising Start – for Aug. 26, 2010

Buoyed by positive responses from agriculture ministers and the food industry, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is plowing ahead with the development of its National Food Strategy.

The idea for the strategy was first presented to the federal and provincial agriculture ministers during the 2009 CFA round table meeting, says Garnet Etsell, the organization’s first vice-president. The politicians showed sufficient interest that the CFA executive tried it on delegates to the organization’s annual meeting last February. Their support encouraged further refinement of the proposal. It was presented to the food industry at a meeting in Toronto in June and to the agriculture ministers again in July.

CFA plans to spend the rest of the year fleshing out the strategy in discussions with its member organizations and other components of the agriculture and food sectors. Etsell calls this the first of four exploratory stages. By early 2011, it hopes to have a discussion paper to make public. It will set out development goals and action steps that CFA hopes can be used to develop consensus within the food industry. It should also have political appeal.

Its purpose will be to give the food value chain a focus for working together, Etsell said. “We want to get everyone on the same page.”

It won’t be the only composition up for consideration. The agriculture ministers are working on a Growing Forward 2 proposal that will likely include a lot of emphasis on co-operation within the food industry.

Etsell hopes this will give the National Food Strategy an opening. The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors is drafting a food strategy and is interested in the CFA endeavour as is the Canadian Fertilizer Institute.

The Harper government also has to work out the kinks that have delayed meaningful adoption of the Product of Canada labelling regime. A plan has been promised for the end of 2010.

Etsell said the strategy should encompass everyone from the farm supply sector through producers to the food processors, distributors and retailers. The food industry has become one of the largest employers in Canada and could become an example for other sectors on how to maximize their potential through co-operation.

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