Local producers praise David Coon's food security bill

Some New Brunswick entrepreneurs say a new bill by the Green Party Leader David Coon is a step in the right direction for agriculture in the province.

Green Party leader says he is open to amending his bill if it means the proposed law is passed

Green Party Leader David Coon introduced a Local Food Security Act this week. (CBC)

Some New Brunswick entrepreneurs say Green Party Leader David Coon's proposed Local Food Security Act will help grow a larger market for locally grown food in the province.

The proposed bill would see the provincial government give preference to local food providers to supply food for nursing homes, schools and hospitals.

It would also include better labelling for local food and bringing healthy food education to schools.

Tim Cochran of Cochran's Country Market said he has seen firsthand the state of New Brunswick agriculture industry.

"We have a lot of farmers that I've been dealing with for 20 years that they're going to retire and there isn't the farmers there to take their place, partly because I think it's a hard industry to break into,” Cochrane said.

Cochran said Coon's proposal could help make it easier for people to make a living in the agriculture industry.

"I think it's excellent," he said.

"From what I understand, it's really going to promote and drive the promotion of locally grown produce and products."

Levi Lawrence, the owner of Real Food Connections, said the act would be a step forward by building the market for local food in the province.

But he said even if the bill passes, change won't happen overnight.

"There is still a lot of work to be done in the province in supplying, distributing and processing what we grow in the province that the act doesn't really help us do,” Lawrence said.

“It does create a market for entrepreneurs to work on that problem and better reason to get into that business, but that's the biggest gap we have in the province today."

Lawrence has been expanding his local food store in Fredericton and is now getting ready to open up a store in Saint John. He went through a major crowdfunding campaign last year.

Coon open to amendments

The bill is expected to have its second reading sometime in mid-March. If the bill passed, Coon said it would take about 12 months to get it up and running.

"It sets up an advisory committee to work with the various ministers who would be involved," he said.

"And really that's all it would take to get to the point where targets could be set for the province and for targets for our public institutions like schools and hospitals."

Coon said he's received a lot of positive feedback on the bill from agriculture organizations as well as individual MLAs.

He said he's hopeful the bill will pass and said he is open to making amendments.

"I'm always open to amendments to make bills better so we get the best possible law in the books,” he said.

“But I don't see any reason why it wouldn't pass. I think both parties would have to explain why they wouldn't support it if it didn't pass."

A government spokesperson said Coon's bill is being studied.

"The government has committed to developing a local food and beverages strategy to assist local growers and produces develop their products and get them to market," the spokesperson said.

The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick said in a statement on Thursday that they would like to see Coon's bill passed.

"Food is one thing that all New Brunswickers require on a daily basis and food security is an issue that affects and unites all people," the group said in a statement.

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