Big farming offers key to tackling hunger

The answer to hunger issues is not the local food movement but changes that will boost the traditional food system, says the head of an Ottawa public policy think-tank.

Production increases and expanded export opportunities are key to the future.

“The 100 mile diet is nonsense that would create mass starvation,” Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute said Nov. 28 at the GrowCanada conference in Ottawa.

In most countries and many places in Canada, there is not enough food available within 100 miles to provide an adequate or balanced diet.

The only answer to world hunger issues is to allow a “food powerhouse” like Canada to excel at what it does, he said.

With a growing world population and an exploding appetite for food among the expanding world middle class, Canada is not only positioned to cash in but has an obligation to provide needed food.

“From Canada’s point of view, it will be imperative to do good, which also will mean we are doing well,” said Crowley.

The recently formed Macdonald-Laurier Institute advocates market economics and farm income support changes and regulatory reform that will encourage investment in the food system. It has argued against retaining supply management.

Crowley told the conference that increased food production and agricultural productivity will become more crucial as production stalls while demand increases.

“We are leaving an era of food surpluses and entering an era of food shortages,” he said.

And if Canada can free its food system from unnecessary regulation and encourage more innovation, it can be a leader in meeting the world’s growing demand for food.

The regulatory system is “slow and unhelpful,” he said. “It is an oppressive blanket on innovation.”

He argued that Canada’s aggressive export policy is a correct course and the existing business risk management farm support system is “a mess” because it discourages farmers from innovating and taking risks.

“I think it puts too much emphasis on supporting small farmers and that is not where the most efficient production takes place.”

Cowley argued that despite abundant resources in land, wager and smart farmers, Canada is “falling behind” its ability to produce increased food and the world’s need for increased production.

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