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Food Politics

The food landscape has many interest groups who advocate with individual agendas. Their missions, values and activities support a mixture of economic, environmental and social outcomes at varying levels. 

On a granular scale, agriculture and food appears to be separated into big business and small to medium enterprises (SME). Big business is usually focused more on economics than environmental and social concerns where SME's take more of a balanced approach to economic, environmental and social outcomes.

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is engaging both groups in conversations to establish common goals and objectives around triple bottom line outcomes.

► Big business is focused on the modern industrial agriculture system to obtain economies of scale. They employ thousands of people, pay millions of dollars in taxes and have the political clout and connections to lobby all levels of government for regulatory changes that support their industry. Big retailers use their purchasing power to obtain lower prices, which often puts pressure on the environment.

► SME's are generally less organized and have fewer actionable political connections. Small producers and processors face regulations that often make it difficult to stay in business. Although small producers have excellent relationships with customers through niche market channels, financial constraints make it difficult to satisfy the necessary requirements to sell to grocery stores or food service distributors.

However, SME's are enjoying a ground swell of consumers who are willing to make some price concessions for food that is convenient, safe, nutritious, fresh and grown by local farmers in a sustainable way.

SME's have small but strong advocacy organizations like Farm Start, Ecological Farmers of Ontario and Sustain Ontario. Collectively, they are drawing attention to environmental and social problems created by the current agriculture system. This will be helpful in converting more people to supporting local food producers. These actions can translate into political capital and regulatory change.