National Farmers Union will keep working to get local food legislation, New Brunswick president says

CBC News
New Brunswick farmers say they're disappointed Green Party Leader David Coon's proposed Local Food Security Act was voted down in the legislature on Thursday.

The bill would have required the provincial government to give preference to local food providers when supplying nursing homes, schools and hospitals.Several farmers left their fields to go to Fredericton to show their support for the bill, including Ted Wiggans, New Brunswick president for the National Farmers Union (NFU).

"The bill itself, we're very supportive of it. We think it's good for the province, we think it's good for rural New Brunswick, and especially for farmers. I think it's good for the population as a whole in terms of having local food security — knowing where it comes from," said Wiggans.

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Green Party Leader David Coon contends the government should have sought public input on the proposed food security bill. (CBC)

"What it means is that it's going to be more difficult for the consumer to know where their food is coming from and for consumers who do want to buy local products. It's very hard to identify that right now. It says 'local,' but you don't know what that means. It could be from across the border, or it could be from across the country, you don't know."

Wiggans says the NFU will continue working toward getting some kind of legislature in place and hopes Coon's bill at least generated more discussion about local food.

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Ted Wiggans, New Brunswick president of the National Farmers Union, says he will continue working to get some kind of local food legislation in place. (CBC)

Coon criticized the government's failure to consult on the bill."The way this system is supposed to work is that bills that require consultation should got to a committee. Invite the public in, invite interest groups in, invite experts in to carry out that consultation and improve the bill based on that input, if needed," he said.

"And secondly, the bill is designed, the way it's written, entirely to build consultation into developing the details because it's not a prescriptive bill."

The bill would also have included better labelling for local food and healthy food education for schools.

Agriculture Minister Rick Doucet questioned whether legislation is really required.

"You know, do we really need legislation to force that? You know, some of the conversation that we'll be having with the departments. You know, some joint conversations with the departments.

"Also, as we step down the road, is there a tourism element to this?"

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