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by Hugh Maynard
The alternative way has now received official sanction. The Quebec ministry of Agriculture has established a three year, 3 million dollar program for.`biological agriculture", otherwise known as organic farming.
The Minister of Agriculture, Michel Pagé, announced the new policy at the end of August, which will be applied by means of the newly conceived concept of an integrated action plan.
"This is not just a program but also a policy, and that's an important distinction" said Pagé, emphasizing that the ministry's commitment will run beyond the initial three years of the program.
Expenditures of $700,000 are planned for 1989-90 to assist the several hundred organic farmers in the province to boost their estimated $10 million in sales.
Selling products primarily from the greenhouse, horticultural, cereal, beef and dairy sectors, Pagé said that organic farmers are producing only 20 % of the market demand. .'Right now the retail sales of organic produce are worth $50 million" he said, explaining the big difference between farm gate and retail value due to consumers being more select!~.'e and the high mark-ups for organic foodstuffs.
"We also know that the eventual market will be big, very big" Pagé said about his ministry's involvement with organic food production at this time. "To invest in biological agriculture is to invest in a sector that is in full development" he concluded.
The largest aspect of the program will be devoted to the regulation of products labelled as "organic". A system of certification will be established to standardize the presentation of organic products and to protect consumers from misleading claims.
The standardized classification of products will be backed up with a certification procedure for producers, information for consumers" the training of certification agents and surveillance of the market for adherence to the norms. A resource and training centre for biological agriculture will be established at the ITA in La Pocatière. The documentation centre of the Ecological Agriculture Projects (EAP) at Macdonald College will receive assistance to help make the centre more accessible to those wishing information on the subject.
Other aspects of the program will be technical and financial assistance in the marketing of organic produce, including the promotion of certified products. A permanent secretariat will be established within MAPAQ to foster collaboration in the sector between farmers and others in the agri-food system.
Demonstration farms will be designated to display "agricultural techniques that respect the environment", the objective being to encourage farmers to adopt new methods of production.
Research in the area of biological agriculture will also be given priority, with MAPAQ placing more capital and human resources into the area of organic farming in the years to come. Pagé said, however, thatthey will not entirely stop work on presently established methods of production. He called biological farming the third agricultural revolution of the century, following those of machinery and chemicals. According to Pagé, his department has no intention of abandoning farmers who practice conventional methods of farming, only to assist the development of alternative practices. The minister has stated on numerous occasions that his department has set a goal of reducing pesticide use in the province by 50 % in the short term.
Editor's note: Reprinted with permission from the Quebec Farmers' Advocate, September 1989.
Copyright © 1990 REAP Canada
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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