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Quebec’s UPA, UN’s FAO sign co-operative pact

Quebec’s overarching farmer organization, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), expects to gain "legitimacy and momentum" for its policy goals through a new memo of understanding with the United Nations’ agricultural body.

The UPA on Monday announced a memorandum of understanding on co-operation was signed in Rome by its president Marcel Groleau and by the director-general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva.

The purpose of this understanding, UPA said Monday, is to implement "common actions with a view to promoting the development of a type of family farming that is efficient, economically viable, socially cohesive, fair and sustainable, structured in professional organizations and integrated into the market."

The FAO, UPA said, recognizes through this agreement that global food security depends on the ability of farmers to feed the world and to do so, "they need to have fair local, regional and national policies that encourage the development of family farming and the establishment of young farmers to secure generational renewal."

The UPA quoted the World Bank’s 2008 annual report describing family farms as "the very basis of food security in many countries."

In Monday’s memorandum, Groleau said, the FAO "goes further" to add that the "maintenance and development of family farming depends on well structured professional farmer organizations."

The FAO, on its website, notes in the context of the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives (IYC), it’s joined with other "Rome-based" agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to "promote and build awareness and understanding of the role of agricultural and food co-operatives in employment generation, poverty alleviation and improved food security."

To that end, FAO has said it and its partner groups are crafting a strategy to raise awareness of the co-operative model and provide "technical support to national governments in establishing and developing an enabling environment for producer organizations and co-operatives."

"We are at the beginning of something new," Groleau said Monday, as "major organizations" such as the World Bank and FAO have made "a clear move in the direction of sustainable and fair agricultural development."

Monday’s memorandum, he said, "gives us the legitimacy and the momentum to pursue our action."

The UPA noted Monday it’s been calling for years for creation of a Quebec secretariat on "agricultural specificity" to promote "an exception for agriculture on the international scene."

The Quebec group said it’s also called for the "restoration of the right of peoples to define their own agricultural and food policy in respect for human rights, and the right of countries to base their national food security on their own territories and resources."

A pledge from the province’s new Parti Quebecois government to establish a food sovereignty policy for Quebec "is consistent with this orientation and we fully endorse it," UPA said.

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