Everyone has a role to play in supporting Canadian agriculture

Agriculture employs one of every eight Canadians — and in a rural area, such as this, the number is much higher. It’s also a $110-billion industry — and that’s probably understating the overall value of domestic food production.

The avails of high quality, locally produced food can offer many spin-off benefits. Diet is a direct determinant of health, so there is a direct correlation between access to affordable, healthy options for produce, for grains, and for protein sources can lessen the burden on the public to pay for acute-care services like hospitals, mental health resources, and other ongoing services within communities.

Canadian research conducted for the Heart and Stroke Foundation has also shown clear links between proper nutrition and academic performance. Similar studies have shown the same effects on workplace performance and engagement. One such study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology in 2014 showed increased engagement, creativity, and feelings of well-being among those who ate fruits and vegetables, as opposed to alternatives considered less healthy.

Much good work has taken place around the issue of food security, with Community Foundations among the groups leading that charge, but with Canada’s second annual Agriculture Day passing Tuesday, it is an appropriate time for a reminder about one most important reality — if everyone does what they can to support farmers and producers, they will do their part to ensure that supply is available.

On an individual level, it’s having confidence in buying and supporting local, not only for the benefit of knowing the food they’re about to receive is fresh and maintains nutrients because it doesn’t have to travel farther, but also because those farms contribute to the community. They all pay taxes. Many also shop with local suppliers, support hometown charities and teams, and donate for anti-hunger initiatives. It’s also recognizing that people in our communities are the ones working hard to ensure there’s safe, affordable food.

Beyond that, it’s important to consider agriculture when going to the ballots and making choices for the provincial, municipal, and federal elections ahead in the next two years. Municipally, it’s worth checking to see which prospective councillors would support policies that ease tax burdens on farmers who actively work their land. Provincially, carbon tax schemes look to be a factor over the next few months that differentiate the parties looking to govern. The current government’s cap-and-trade system has already had impacted farmers’ costs to run their machinery and that has translated to higher costs at the grocery store. Could a reversal of that policy benefit everyone through the supply chain?

It’s also a pressing time on the international front with Canada involved in trading negotiations in the Americas and abroad. It’s worth following the negotiations and seeing that this country’s representatives do everything in their power to allow domestic producers to remain competitive, both in the Canadian market and, if desired, as exporters. Do Canadian subsidies rival those of competitors? Can protective tariffs be used to secure market advantage? The talks may seem broad for many, but even minute changes can mean a great deal for a farmer’s livelihood and for price and access to food.

Everyone has a role to play in helping feed the country and it all starts with thankful support for its producers.

-Adam Bramburger