Dreaming of healthy food sovereignty is not a luxury, but a logical choice

During the holidays, the editorial team continues its reflection on the individual and collective challenges that will shape our world in the coming years from the perspective of solutions, as far as possible. Today: food sovereignty.

Scalded by a pandemic which has collectively opened our eyes to our fragilities, the Trudeau and Legault governments have championed a food sovereignty to be conquered. It’s fortunate, there are no more zealous people than the newly converted. But do they properly understand what the pursuit of this ideal will require in terms of energy, resources and sacrifices?

This is because the cultivable area is a precious resource which not only is not renewed, but becomes impoverished as soon as we let our guard down. In Quebec, this zone occupies only 4.7% of the territory; 2% if we stick to the cultivated or pastured portion. However, less than a third has strong potential for all types of crops. Our pantry isn’t just modest, it’s frugal.

And what do we do with this collective heritage? We reserve nearly 70% of our best land for animal feed without jealously guarding what remains. We should instead favor plural, sustainable and local agriculture, strengthened by small-scale production in addition to promoting soil regenerative practices. We know all this, but we resist resolutely committing in this direction, sitting on borrowed time, as if tomorrow did not exist.

However, not only does tomorrow exist, but it will be tough on our pantry. Global warming does not only herald a happy lengthening of growth periods for Quebec. Intense weather events such as derechoes or hail will come closer together and become more vehement, periods of drought and extreme heat will lengthen, insect pests will proliferate, the protection of snow cover, so precious for certain crops, will be reduced. like a skin of sorrow.

We see all this coming, and we still continue to chip away at our common heritage. In a quarter of a century, Quebec has ceded the equivalent of 1,800 football fields of arable land. The pressures are especially strong with the housing crisis and an economy hungry for space. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, we already know that the battery sector risks encroaching on portions of our pantry. Not to mention pure aberrations like these 12 hectares of arable land that GoodLeaf was able to concrete with complete peace of mind to erect a vertical hydroponic greenhouse in Longueuil.

The SaluTERRE Alliance, which brings together organizations from the agricultural, environmental and planning sectors, is campaigning for an objective of zero net loss through artificialization. We should indeed have the courage to adopt such an intractable posture when it comes to defending the food capacity of our agricultural territory.

Of course, if we decide to really lock down our land, we will have to provide more heads and arms, especially as a large contingent of farmers is preparing for retirement. It is therefore imperative to secure decent wages as well as sustainable working conditions. Currently, everything is spiraling out of control — the value of land and loans, the price of machinery and labor — to the point that the Financière agricole du Québec is unable to adapt its programs accordingly.

The next generation is too fragile. We must better support it by dampening the appetites of the greediest corporate investors, with the imposition by Ottawa of a tax imposed at higher rates for example. Committed to an ambitious reform from which we hope to be big, the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, insists for his part on a “massification” of the commitment to changing our ways of farming. He is right, the support of producers will be decisive.

Still, we would like to see all our levels of government address this vital issue with the same intensity as that deployed by Quebec to roll out the red carpet for the battery industry. Let’s not be afraid to expand the rights of agricultural producers in terms of production and direct sales. Let us evaluate the relevance of authorizing direct donations. Let’s multiply short circuits. Let us move towards better reciprocity of standards, otherwise our products will continue to pale in comparison to foreign competitors.

Because affordability is at the heart of another important part of the equation, which belongs to all Quebecers. Food sovereignty will not happen without a profound change in our consumption habits. Eating local doesn’t happen by magic. A bit like life as a couple, you will have to “choose yourself” constantly, which will require effort and, yes, concessions.

But we don’t start from nothing. Quebec has 600 villages with a strong agricultural vocation. Our ingenuity is great, and adversity has been eaten for breakfast for several centuries now. We can dream out loud of healthy food sovereignty without falling into clouds. It is a political choice, a collective choice. Shall we set the table?

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