The Carrots and Sticks of Sustainable Farming in Canada
43 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2016 Last revised: 14 Dec 2016
Date Written: October 1, 2015
Concerns about the way in which we grow, distribute and consume food around the world have grown in recent years. From the environmental impacts of farming practices (exacerbated by the industrialization of agriculture) and GHG emissions from agriculture, to the viability of farming communities and health concerns about concentrated livestock operations, the issues are numerous, often overlapping, and sometimes underpinned by different values and/or preoccupations. These concerns are intensified when set against the backdrop of expanding global population, with its growing need for food and increasing demand for diets high in both caloric and meat consumption, and climate change. Public policy in support of sustainable farming is essential to safeguard the ecosystems upon which farms are dependant, while providing sustainable rural livelihoods, promoting food security and contributing to a vibrant agricultural economy. This paper evaluates the extent to which Canada’s federal agricultural policy framework enables sustainable farming and agricultural food production. We find that, although there have been many ad-hoc initiatives within Canadian federal and provincial/ territorial governments relating to sustainability, Canada has not made any national policy commitments to pursuing sustainable farming. The government’s central agricultural policy framework fails to establish the enabling vision and incentive structure needed to influence a systemic change in the sector towards sustainable farming. The policy framework is primarily geared towards helping the sector become more competitive and gain and maintain market share, through innovation for instance. A shift in agricultural policy is required in order to safeguard the future of food security and rural livelihoods in Canada.
Keywords: Sustainable farming, Sustainable agriculture, Sustainable food, environmental law
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