Overhaul needed

Who wouldn’t prefer to eat fresh meat and produce that came from a nearby farm rather than being trucked in from destinations hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away?
It certainly makes sense from a taste point of view, not to mention the benefit of keeping dollars in the local economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by having fewer trucks on the highways, and insulating the cost of food from soaring fuel prices.
Given these obvious merits, why is it that government rules and regulations are hindering access to local foods, rather than encouraging it?
That’s something district farmer Kim Jo Bliss wants to see flipped around. Speaking on behalf of the Rainy River Local Food for Local People committee, she called for changes in a presentation via videoconference last Tuesday (April 15) to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in Ottawa.
One big flaw, she pointed out, is the CFIA’s definition of “local food,” which states goods must originate within 50 km of where they are being sold in order to be labelled as “local.” Clearly that makes no sense in Rainy River District, where honey produced in the west end cannot be labelled “local” if it’s sold at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market here in Fort Frances.
It also means district farmers are shut out of other communities in Northwestern Ontario—their logical markets as the nearest producers.
The solution? A national definition of “local” that takes into account local realities.
In a nutshell, Ms. Bliss’ presentation called for regulations that accommodate small, local, and artesian food production, allowing producers to supply local markets by selling vegetables, meat, eggs, and milk at the farm gate.
Promoting local food, such as last fall’s inaugural “harvest dinner” at Kitchen Creek Golf Course, has been a growing movement in Rainy River District over the past few years. It’s high time Ottawa climbed aboard to help it thrive.