Provincial program supports future of local food

By Ruby Irene Pratka Local Journalism Initiative
Provincial program supports future of local food

More than $1.3 million will be set aside to support “innovative agri-food projects” in the Estrie region, through a partnership between the Ministère des affaires municipales et de l’habitation (MAMH), the Ministère de l’agriculture, des pêcheries et de l’alimentation (MAPAQ), the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA)-Estrie, eight MRCs including Brome-Missisquoi and Haute-Yamaska, the City of Sherbrooke and the Centre local de développement (CLD) Brome-Missisquoi.

“A strategic reflection will first be carried out in order to define favourable opportunities and common issues for MRCs, as well as territorial specificities,” the MAMH said in a statement. “Subsequently, initiatives in the biofood sector will be supported to meet the needs identified during this process. The pooling of means and resources for the realization of these initiatives will be encouraged in order to enhance the benefits for the region.”

Concretely, according to UPA-Estrie president Michel Brien, individual farms and agrifood businesses will be able to apply for a grant from this funding to support innovative agrifood projects. The winning projects will be selected by a committee composed of representatives from the UPA-Estrie, the ministries and participating MRCs.

Brien said a similar round of funding was announced five years ago, although at the time, farmers and entrepreneurs from Brome-Missisquoi and Haute- Yamaska could not apply, because their MRCs were still part of the Montérégie region. “They may have had an equivalent agreement with Montérégie, but they’re on our team now,” said Brien. (Calls to the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi and the CLD Brome-Missisquoi seeking clarification were not returned by press time.)

Brien said the previous round of funding had supported projects like Créateurs de saveurs, a branding program for local products created by the Conseil de l’industrie bioalimentaire de l’Estrie (CIBLE), and L’Arterre, a program that connected farmers looking to sell their land or business with young aspiring farmers seeking land. “Little tools like [Créateurs de saveurs] build brand recognition and make it easier for farmers to put their products on the market,” Brien said. “They [Créateurs de saveurs] are flying with their own wings now.”

Difficult transition

Farnham mayor Patrick Melchior, the prefect of the MRC of Brome-Missisquoi, was unable to comment at press time. Last week, he told La Voix de l’Est he was concerned about financial repercussions for farmers in the two MRCs transitioning from Montérégie to Estrie. He said he “was told not to worry,” but that 30 of 44 participating farmers involved in an incentive program for green agricultural practices had lost money. “What will happen with the other MAPAQ programs? We’re worried it will be the tip of the iceberg,” Melchior said. Brien said ensuring that farms in the two transitioning regions were fully integrated into existing programs could take a few months to a year.

The MAPAQ was unable to comment at press time.

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