CANADA - The Manitoba government is establishing a new group to work with small-scale food processors, direct-farm marketers, farmers and others in a bid to get more local food to market.
The new group will also ensure that food safety is a major priority.
Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn said: "Many Manitobans are seeking out food grown and processed closer to home and this growing market is important to farmers, processors and the provincial economy.
"The province looks forward to engaging with Manitobans on how we can work together to expand this sector and meet consumer demand, while still keeping the highest priority on food safety and quality."
The working group will review regulations and programs currently affecting existing, growing and new businesses in Manitoba.
The group, led by Dr. Wayne Lees, will also create opportunities to discuss these issues with processors, marketers and other Manitobans:
- food safety;
- gaps and challenges related to existing provincial requirements including those related to online sales;
- training, production and marketing needs;
- solutions to help strengthen and expand this sector; and
- opportunities for future growth.
"We are pleased to work with the stakeholder group to support the sustainable local food economy," said Leanne Anderson, chair, Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative.
Recommendations on how to better support the growth and sustainability of these sectors, while continuing to put top priority on food safety, will be presented to the Manitoba government. More information about public consultations and the work of this committee will be available at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture.
The minister noted the working group will reflect the entire value chain and includes producers, processors, individual entrepreneurs and marketing groups including farmers' markets, co-operatives and retailers.
"These consultations are good news for both livestock and grain producers," said Doug Chorney, president, Keystone Agricultural Producers.
"As a farmer who is involved in direct marketing myself, I strongly support provincial efforts that encourage producers to offer their commodities locally and encourage Manitobans to access the top-quality food produced here at home."
The Manitoba government has undertaken a number of initiatives to support small farmers and food processors including:
- providing financial and technical assistance available through Growing Forward 2 to help processors meet regulatory requirements and make capital improvements;
- expanding the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie to add new, specialized equipment and space to accommodate more clients;
- introducing the Local Sustainable Food Procurement Pilot Program, in partnership with Food Matters Manitoba, to help identify and address barriers to government purchasing local food for public facilities; and
- hosting workshops focused on growing opportunities with local food, most recently in Steinbach and Teulon, as well as on safely processing meat for retail sale.
Separate consultations on proposed food safety regulations for food processing plants, abattoirs, warehouses and dairy farms are currently underway.
The regulation would support safe food-handling practices, strengthen protection for consumers and encourage innovation, the minister said.
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