Welcome, everyone. We are starting the second hour of our meeting, which is open to the public.
This morning, it is our honour to welcome the new Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau.
Ms. Bibeau, congratulations on your new position as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
We are also pleased to welcome Annette Gibbons, Associate Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food, as well as France Pégeot, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Welcome to you all.
Madam Minister, we will start with you. You have 10 minutes for your opening remarks.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you for the first time.
As you know, these have been some very busy first weeks for me since I took over the portfolio at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on March 1. I've embraced my new role with a lot of enthusiasm. I thought I had the best job as the Minister of International Development, but I must admit that I very much enjoy Agriculture and Agri-Food as well.
I will certainly be relying on the expertise around this table. Thank you for your important work. I know you are exploring the issues that matter for the industry—climate change, non-tariff trade barriers and a food policy for Canada, to name just a few.
This morning I am pleased to outline some of the key priorities we are focusing on at the department and across the government.
The government has high ambitions for our agricultural trade. Taken together, our trade agreements are giving our farmers a competitive edge in 60% of the global economy. Canada is the only G7 member to have trade agreements with all the others.
The government's top priority is to regain full market access for our canola seed exports to China. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian producers have the support they need. The industry has been very clear that farmers will need additional assistance this year to manage cash flow pressures. That is why yesterday the and I announced that the federal government will amend the regulations of the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act to increase the loan limits under the advance payments program.
The regulatory amendment will change the loan limits for the advance payments program for 2019 as follows: Advances will increase from $400,000 to $1 million on all commodities, and the first $100,000 will remain interest-free on all commodities except canola, for which the interest-free advances will be eligible for up to $500,000. These measures will give producers the support they need to manage their cash flow. As well, we are extending the AgriStability enrolment deadline by two months without penalty, from April 30 to July 2.
These measures reflect the commitment of federal and provincial governments to work together to respond to the needs of farmers and industry. Our working group with industry and provinces has been meeting weekly, and today again, and is focused on supporting the sector, including the importance of diversifying into new markets.
Our canola working group has been meeting weekly to discuss ways of supporting the sector, including the importance of diversifying into new markets.
We are diversifying our trade through agreements like the CPTPP, which will eliminate tariffs on canola products going into Japan. Already, Canadian beef exports to Japan have doubled in the first two months of 2019, compared to the same period last year. And Canadian pork exports to that country increased by nearly 14%.
Next week, I will travel to Japan to participate in the G20 agriculture ministers' meeting. While in Japan, I will meet with Japanese industry leaders and officials from several countries to advance Canada's agricultural trade.
We are optimistic that, as more Canadians pursue opportunities created by the CPTPP and the free trade agreement with Europe, we will see these numbers grow.
At the same time, we are protecting our pork industry by taking measures to keep African swine fever out of Canada.
Canadian pork producers depend on exports to sell 70% of their production. We are investing in stronger border controls and stronger inspection of feed imports.
Canada is taking international leadership on African swine fever. On Tuesday, I addressed an international forum on the subject that we organized in partnership with the United States. Twenty-five countries participated, including the European Union.
Canada's trade strategy is strong and balanced. At the same time, we know that our trade agreements have impacts on our dairy, poultry and egg producers, who are subject to supply management.
That is why the 2019 budget proposes an investment of up to $3.9 billion to deal with income losses associated with the CPTPP and the free-trade agreement with Europe, and to protect against any reduction in quota value.
Since I took the position, I have had many meetings with producers, processors and those who represent them. I also attended the first meeting of the strategic working group for dairy. Our common goal is the long-term competitiveness of our dairy, poultry and egg producers.
Another major priority for us is to launch a food policy for Canada.
Last week, we had a great discussion on the food policy with some key stakeholders at the food security symposium in Toronto.
In the 2019 budget, we are proposing to invest $134.4 million to support the food policy, the first of its kind for Canada. The policy sets out an ambitious vision of ensuring that all people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious, and culturally diverse food. It seeks to make Canada's food system resilient and innovative, to sustain our environment, and to support our economy.
The future is full of promise for Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry. Demand for Canadian food continues to rise, and Canada has the competitive advantages to meet that demand sustainably.
I look forward to working with you and all stakeholders to help our agriculture and agri-food sector grow, innovate, and prosper.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, Ms. Bibeau. Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. May I dare to hope that, after a few weeks, you will say that the best job you have had is Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, not Minister of International Development. At the moment, agriculture is an absolutely fantastic area.
Madam Minister, we are happy that you are here. It has been almost six months since we have had a minister of agriculture and agri-food with us. You will understand that we have a lot of questions and that one hour will not be enough. So I will focus on certain points, especially the canola crisis, as I am sure you suspected.
It took three requests for an emergency meeting, nine requests for an emergency debate in the House, the involvement of farmers and provincial premiers, and of the leader of the official opposition, for the to finally understand the urgency to intervene in the canola crisis. On Monday, he raised the limit on loans made under the advance payments program.
What was the tone of the most recent conversation you, as the minister, had with Chinese authorities, with a view to finding a solution to the current crisis?
As you know, I was following this issue closely with the before I took office.
The $3.9 billion announced in the budget includes $1.5 million for an insurance program should the value of quotas go down. In addition, there is $2.4 billion in compensation for supply-managed producers, dairy farmers, but also poultry and egg producers. Of that amount, $250 million has already gone to support investment projects for dairy farmers. Now I really need to analyze and move ahead with the allocation of the remaining $2.15 billion in compensation to all dairy, poultry and egg producers. If all goes well, that should be done within the next two months; that's truly my goal.
Our commitment to processors remains strong, but we were not in a position to include an amount in the budget when it was announced because discussions still needed to be held with processors.
I heard the message of dairy farmers loud and clear: they are asking for direct and fair compensation, meaning in proportion to their quotas. Their message is really crystal clear to me.
Since then, I have had some discussions with Pierre Lampron, the president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, and also with Mathieu Frigon, the president of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada. It is important for me to really understand the advantages and disadvantages of the various options available.
The next steps will be to meet with cabinet to agree on the best option and then appear before the Treasury Board to implement the financial mechanisms that will enable me to distribute the compensation.
This issue is of great interest to me. I launched Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy, so I was already on that path. I am surprised to be the first woman in Canada to hold the position of Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. We all know how involved women are on family farms, but we find that they are poorly represented at the decision-making tables.
The first example I can give you is the working group for dairy. There was a working group on compensation, and there is now a working group on the outlook for the various supply-managed industries. I had the opportunity to participate in the first meeting with representatives from the dairy sector. I'm sort of challenging producers by asking them to ensure that, as they define the vision for the dairy sector, women and young people are fully heard. We are also working for them, for the young people.
When I travel, I try to hold round tables with women in agriculture. They are often mothers, wives or daughters of dairy farmers who become farm owners. These young women's message is clearly the same as that of women in politics: family is a major issue and they think twice before taking on responsibilities far from home. Culture is also a major issue.
As a woman minister, I believe that one of my roles is to push our partners to find ways to have greater representation of women and young people at the decision-making tables.
Madam Minister, thank you for being with us today. The discussion is very interesting.
I would like to talk about something that is of great concern to me, and to many farmers and agricultural producers. There are many of them in our region, as you know, since our ridings are next to each other. The issue is innovation on farms.
As we know, our agricultural producers are not only agricultural producers; they are entrepreneurs who manage SMEs. They want to innovate, they want to be even more productive, and that is extremely important. This is all the more important today, in a context where labour is increasingly scarce. They must therefore upgrade their facilities. We want quality products, but in sufficient quantity. Our products are sought after not only here in Canada, but around the world. Demand is very high.
Our government has done different things in recent years. I would like to hear your perspective on this. What is our government doing to help these extremely important companies that want to modernize further?
Madam Minister, you indicated that you'd written to your counterpart in China and that you have not heard back. We have a situation where tariffs were placed on pulses in India. I'm curious whether or not we're getting any responses back. We also have issues where there are non-tariff trade barriers on durum wheat in Italy. It's interesting...whether or not we're getting any responses back. When we are dealing with a country like China and they see the lack of action that we take with all of these other issues that Canadian farmers have, perhaps that could indicate to you why it is that farmers are so concerned and so upset.
When a question comes, such as whether we're going to have an ambassador in China who actually knows what is happening.... This is such a critical time. There are lots of ambassadors who we could move around to make sure that this happens. It is a very serious question.
There are also discussions, as you said, that you're going to go to other countries, to Japan. Do you know what the crush capacity is for Japan? Because people would insinuate from that discussion that there is another extra market that you can have for this canola. Are they not already at maximum capacity? It means that this canola has to go somewhere.