Opinion

As the federal election gears up, political parties are rolling out platforms — easily made promises that they hope appeal to enough voters to support their party’s rise to form the next government.

Ultimately, governments are decided not by those who grow or process food, but by those who live in the most populous areas, with Quebec and Ontario holding most of the power. So far, it appears that what resonates with voters this election is managing the cost of living, employment and economic recovery, and the environment, specifically climate change.

If agriculture is to shape policy going forward, it’s not going to be through western ridings and rural areas; it will be through allies in urban and suburban settings who value Canadian agriculture.

Pulling together and magnifying ag’s asks for the next government

To that end, several policy organizations have done a terrific job of being out of the gate quickly with their asks and vision for Canadian ag policy going forward (see below). In a short election campaign, this is key, but it still requires the average Canadian citizen to pick up the torch and run with it.

How do we do that?

Well, we start with food. Food is the great connector; we all eat. Then we talk about land, soil, water, and air — and what we’re doing to not just conserve the health and quality, but also make it better (and I mean real action, not just resting on our laurels of being “stewards of the land). We need to show how and share how animals are cared for, and all the considerations made for animal welfare.

We need to bring all of this together and show Canadians that, yes, a big chunk of what they consume does come from right here in Canada. And then, that a big chunk of what we produce lands on the tables of humans just like them around the world — and that it keeps Canada’s economy humming.

This was front and centre during the beginning days of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in perhaps two generations, Canadians went to the grocery store and found empty shelves. Suddenly, thousands of Canadians realized that meat in a cooler comes from packing plants staffed by real humans, and that we are incredibly depending on imports, logistics, and border crossings to keep our consumer choices a float. Heck, people even started to make their own bread, though, as predicted, the trend fell off once supply chains caught up.

BRM, ag research, and trade are top election concerns for Grain Growers of Canada

How do we move the needle and have Canadians speak of behalf of the agriculture industry? We have to listen. We have to listen without being defensive first, without arguing first, without letting our own biases override the conversation. We have to listen to what those who decide the election are pushing for, and then we need to find the common ground and the common good that exists and build on it. Agriculture can do many powerful positive things for the concerns of its citizens, but it has to be a collaborative effort.

We need consumers to actually understand what agriculture needs, and why, and how it will help the environment, climate, their health, and our economy because it is a thriving sector. Because we need those consumers to not just elect the next government, but to also push for policy going forward that serves the sector. We can’t do it alone.

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