Conference board says farm aid should be tied to the environment

Government should use its farm support programs to protect the environment instead of just propping them up in economically tough times, says the Conference Board of Canada.

In a report called Reducing the Risk, the board recommends governments talk to producer groups about green farm programs with the goal of making “some payments dependent on achieving specified environmental performance standards or practices.”

It also recommends government, business and farm groups create “an overarching and integrated body to co-ordinate risk governance functions.” Such a body could foster innovation and better protect the environment so Canada can increase food production “in a way that does not put our environment at risk.”

Noting that about 40 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted, largely at the household level, the board also wants government to take steps to reduce waste through consumer education, improved labels, and retail information resources.

For example, many consumers don’t understand best-before and use-by dates.

“Given that these refer primarily to a food product’s freshness and not its safety, as many householders believe, much food is being thrown out before it actually becomes unsafe to eat,” states the report, issued by the board’s Centre for Food in Canada division.

The report also calls on governments to encourage development of a meaningful eco-label program for foods.

“Importantly, it could also help differentiate the Canadian brand in the export market for food, especially in markets such as the United States where food eco-labelling is more common or where interest in the environmental performance of food is growing,” the report states.

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