The paper (online at www.aic.ca/issues/AIC_discussion_paper_Final_ENG.pdf), commissioned by Canada's foremost agricultural institute to help catalyze a national roadmap to sustainable agriculture, also calls for governments to use immigration policies to bolster declining rural farming communities.
Published on the eve of AIC's annual meeting (Quebec City, Nov. 6-9), the paper says Canadians eat the world's cheapest food as farmers' incomes wither, small farms vanish, rural communities decline and megafarms mushroom, with major consequences underway for future environmental conditions and food safety.
The discussion paper says making agriculture sustainable is essential as populations grow but can only happen if all Canadians help shoulder the load.
Adding a levy to groceries, with rebates for low-income citizens, would be the simplest way to create a fair levy to help farmers meet growing public demands for safe food produced in ways that do not sacrifice the environment, the discussion paper says.
"Preferably a last resort as a way to raise resources to ensure economic viability for agricultural producers, but a justifiable one none the less, such a measure could be implemented as a sales tax on food," says the paper, co-authored by agricultural analyst and writer Hugh Maynard.
"Farmers and other social groups fought to exclude food when the GST was enacted in 1991 on the argument that there would be a public backlash and that it was an unjust tax for low-income families given the essential nature of foodstuffs. Sales taxes are now common place, and tax rebate measures have been instituted
Contact: Jean Sullivan
Agricultural Institute of Canada