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We are now ready to get going.
I would like to welcome the witnesses participating in today's meeting.
Today, for the first panel, we have, from Noggins Corner Farm II Limited, Mr. Andrew Bishop, owner; from Equestrian Canada, Richard Mongeau, acting executive director, Cheval Québec; and Kristy House, manager, welfare and industry; and also, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Marilyn Braun-Pollon, vice-president, western Canada and agribusiness.
Welcome to all of you. We shall start with your seven-minute opening statements.
If Noggins Corner Farm is ready, you have the floor for seven minutes.
During the pandemic, agricultural sectors have continued operations as they were deemed essential. However, the majority of equine operations do not fall under the federal definition of farms and have had no choice but to suspend all business activities.
Since business closures were mandated in March, equine farms have continued to bear the costs to care for their horses with no money coming in. Whether these horses are working or not, horse care costs remain the same and an increasing number of equine operators are facing unimaginable hardships. Without some immediate relief, many more animals will be destroyed and multi-generational rural Canadian businesses will close their doors for good.
Equine businesses are diverse and located in every region of this country. More than 26,000 equine businesses use farmland, have purpose-built structures and have active equines to generate revenue. These businesses support regional economic development, including sport and competition, youth and adult development and wellness, therapeutic use, horse racing and agri-tourism. Canadian equine operations purchase between $910 million and $1.3 billion in hay, grain and bedding each year. They spend approximately $350 million annually on veterinary and farrier services.
We should be reminded that equine businesses follow virtually the same government regulations as livestock farmers. Whether it be with respect to animal welfare, for example, or transportation regulations, they are all part of the agricultural equipment economy of this country.
The equine businesses in jeopardy are significant economic contributors to the Canadian agriculture sector and long-standing fixtures in rural Canada.
Since early March, Equestrian Canada, our national affiliates and provincial counterparts have been lobbying the federal government for help. We've been repeatedly pushed between ministries of agriculture and heritage, with still no confirmation of where we fit. The ministry of heritage and sport representatives have made it clear that on-farm businesses do not fall within their jurisdiction, and we understand that.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has spent the past weeks engaging with us in trying to find solutions, with no tangible outcomes as yet. We have demonstrated to the representatives within AAFC that our sector cannot meet eligibility requirements and prerequisites for AAFC and agriculture-specific programs or relief dollars. This is because very few equine operations can demonstrate farm income on their income taxes as per the definitions within Canada's Income Tax Act.
Currently there is not one emergency relief program that addresses the costs of maintaining the care and welfare of working horses. These animals have a unique set of skills that take years to develop, and they contribute to a business for many years after.
We know, based on a survey we released at the end of March, that 60% of our businesses were out of resources to maintain the horses' care and welfare a month ago and even more are affected now. Owners are now being forced to cull and euthanize their perfectly healthy and capable working horses. This is not a worst-case scenario; it is already happening. To make things worse, this is the time of year when these businesses earn the bulk of their revenue which covers them for the rest of the year. If this issue is not immediately addressed, owners will continue to offload their horses because they cannot afford to care for them and they will not be able to reopen their businesses again.
We've requested from AAFC a modest amount that would have a paramount impact on the sector and the animals. This ask is based on the projected number of equine farms in Canada that are at risk right now and the median cost of care for these working horses. We estimate the cost to support at-risk working horses in Canada for one month to be $17.2 million. If AAFC were to provide a fund that covered 75%, we project the total cost to AAFC to be $12.9 million per month. This coverage would be a huge help in offsetting the challenges these farms are facing right now.
Our sector has come together to support each other through this crisis, including multiple fundraisers, fostering and adoption programs and supply sharing. We've also developed sector-specific guidelines to prepare for reopening. Some provinces and regions are allowing equine businesses to resume some activity, but this comes with additional costs to meet new biosecurity protocols and the new reality of COVID-19. We're continually monitoring what current programs are and are not working for our sector and provide this feedback to government regularly.
I would like to thank the government for what it has done to help Canadians through this challenging time. I would also like to thank the members of this committee who have met previously with Equestrian Canada and our members and expressed their sympathy and a desire to help us.
We are aware that COVID-19 has been devastating for many Canadian sectors, but our horses and our livelihoods are at stake.
Thank you, Chair, co-chair and members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, for the invitation and the opportunity for CFIB to share our members' views today.
Slide 2 shows you that CFIB is a non-partisan organization with 110,000 small and medium-sized firms, of which 7,200 are agribusiness members, and a majority of those are primary producers. We take direction from our members through surveys on an ongoing basis. What our survey shows is that the COVID pandemic has had a devastating impact on Canada's ag sector.
Slide 3 shows our monthly business barometer. An index range of 65 to 70 shows an economy where a sector is growing at its potential. As you can see, the ag sector's index trails the average by about nine points.
Since the announcement of the $252 million in emergency funding on May 5, we continue to hear heartbreaking stories from our agribusiness members in many sectors and across the country about the challenges they're facing as a result of the pandemic.
A lot of our economic activity has been frozen during the pandemic response. Farmers aren't able to freeze their operations; they can't turn a light switch on and off. Their animals still need to be fed and cared for, and they have tight windows in which to plant, harvest and get their products to market. Unfortunately, they've also had to make many tough decisions, such as having to plow down crops, destroy produce or contemplate putting down their livestock due to reduced capacity at processing facilities or changes in the market demand.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, CFIB has been serving our members on a weekly basis, with about 12,000 responses by each weekend from across every sector. We have presented those findings to the federal government and to provincial governments across the country to assist in decision-making.
What we have found is that agriculture is not immune to the devastating impacts of this pandemic. As shown on slide 4, almost 70% are worried about the economic repercussions on the provincial, national and global economies. These are extremely stressful and uncertain times for the ag sector, as the supply chain problems have cascaded right down through the sector all the way to the primary producer. The chart also shows that almost 40% of farmers are worried about debt, business cash flow and overwhelming stress. We know that farmers are already highly leveraged. A recent StatsCan indication is that, collectively, nationwide farm debt rose by about 8.7% in 2019.
Slide 5 shows that temporary foreign workers and labour shortages continue to be issues for farmers. We know that prior to the pandemic 60,000 temporary foreign workers came to work in Canada's agriculture, food and fish processing industries every year. Despite this, 15,000 job vacancies were reported in the ag sector. This committee is well aware of the challenges there.
A long-term strategy is needed to address those labour shortages in the future. However, we do recognize that there are initiatives, such as the agri-food pilot, which is providing a pathway to residency, and the $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to help with isolation requirements. As shown on our chart, though, 84% of those who hire temporary foreign workers say that it's difficult to find Canadian workers with the skills needed to work in their agribusiness.
Slide 6 really does show the impact of the carbon tax. We continue to hear about the impact of the federal carbon tax. I should say that in addition to the pandemic, the grain sector is really trying to recover from a difficult harvest, transportation issues and trade and market access issues. We know that just a couple of weeks ago some farmers were still trying to harvest last year's crop and were incurring costly carbon taxes to dry their grain.
Slide 7 really shows the impact. We did a survey which showed the average impact to the farmers' bottom line is about $14,000 for the carbon tax in the last year. What we also need to do is recognize that farmers have already taken many steps to protect the environment. One practical way to help the farmers' bottom line is to exempt natural gas, propane, fertilizer and shipping costs.
With slide 8, I want to show you that we did survey our members following the announcement a couple of weeks ago. We understand the enormous challenges in designing support programs and getting them out quickly, and we appreciate the government's willingness to approve emergency programs, such as CEBA and the wage subsidy program.
Unfortunately, we're finding that even though the funding is a good step, these survey results show that only 29% of farmers say that it will be helpful. In public comments, the federal government has said that these measures are an initial investment, and if they do need to, they will do more.
The time to do more is now. One of our members said it well: “Investing in our food industry has never been more important than now. We cannot rely on other countries to feed us.” I did send to the committee a few weeks ago a letter and a report that provided hundreds of comments from farmers about the challenges they're facing and the measures the government needs to look at to address those challenges.
Finally, it's very clear from the hundreds of comments from farmers across the country that the agriculture sector is not immune from the many short-term business challenges and long-lasting effects of COVID-19. The livestock sector alone has seen mounting costs and losses in the past several weeks. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association estimates that the industry will lose about half a billion dollars by the end of June. The Canadian Pork Council also gives an estimate of losses north of $600 million.
We've outlined some very specific recommendations. We do need additional emergency funding. These are unprecedented times, and certainly we need to look at protecting the Canadian food supply. We need to improve our business risk management programs to make them timely, responsive, effective and transparent. Restoring AgriStability's reference margin to 85% would be a start.
We have a recommendation with respect to reducing red tape in interprovincial trade, and a common-sense recommendation on the carbon tax. We also cannot—
Thanks for the question.
You're correct. April 1 saw a 50% increase, during a pandemic, of a tax when farmers can least afford it.
It's an ineffective tax. It punishes farmers with significant costs, making them less profitable and competitive on the world stage. I talked to farmers just a couple of weeks ago who were taking off their 2019 harvest. If it was damp, they had to dry it. Also, if you look at the inability of them to pass that on.... They're price-takers, and so they find the cost of that carbon tax throughout the whole supply chain as well.
We did some research. was looking for some data, and so we did some research. It was very compelling. We found that 83% of our members were saying it has a negative impact. It's also very clear that farmers care about the environment. They're stewards of the environment, but they're not being recognized for the work they're doing to protect the environment. Instead, they're being punished.
I think a common-sense approach would be to at least delay increases, postpone the carbon tax at a time when they can least afford it. We all know that the rebate.... We know that residents paid 50%—
I will continue on from where I left off.
We market our products through two primary channels: wholesale, with marketing and distribution through major and minor grocery chains, accounts for about 75% of our sales; and retail, through our farm market and farmers' markets in Nova Scotia, makes up the remaining 25%. Geographically, we sell to Atlantic Canada, to Ontario wholesale clients, and to a major U.S. distributor.
We employ over 90 full-time and part-time personnel throughout the year to staff our processing, warehousing and distribution operations. To give you an idea, gross sales range from $6.5 million to $7.5 million.
Over the last couple of years, we've experienced several economic threatening events. In 2018, there was a devastating late frost in our valley, something we've never seen before. In 2019, we had a very cold, wet spring that put stress on our trees, which were already in shock from the 2018 frost. In September 2019, hurricane Dorian took 30% to 40% of our crop off the trees and also left a lot of our crop damaged on the trees.
I'm not here to complain today, but just to give you a feel for the situation on our farm and other farms in our area.
We look at things from a positive sense and try to work with adverse conditions. An example of that would be the hurricane losses we incurred. We found a way to make up some of that loss through our vertically integrated operation by making cider out of windfall apples. We called this “Hurrican”. It was put in a can, not in a bottle. It became an instant success because our customers in the Halifax and metro regions were all affected by this hurricane. They lost power for over a week, and out of sympathy we had tremendous success out of a terrible, devastating hurricane to our trees.
Moving forward very quickly to 2020, COVID arrived in March, as we all know. I'm going to state very quickly some of the ongoing things that are happening, or what's happened. As a result of COVID, we suddenly lost several of our employees for various reasons, especially on the retail side, mostly from fear of catching it, contact with customers and so on. We've had to cut our hours of operation to cope. Three of our farm markets we attend all closed down, which is fairly significant for us.
We took that sad scenario, and we moved quickly to online sales. We were able to capture some of that business. However, the future of our farm markets is up in the air, and we're not sure what this will mean as we move forward into our busy season. It's starting now. It's going to ramp up in August, and be in full swing in September and October.
The online sales required a different skill set, and we had to hire several more people to be able to cope with the new challenges of our business.
Along with all that happening we had to keep up with all the current regulations and new things happening, making sure we protect our employees, making huge changes to our processing or packing line to be able to keep distance and to keep some kind of flow. It has proved very stressful and very time-consuming from a management point.
We've gone through that. I will add that we were able to get our seasonal workers in. I thank the government very much for stepping up and helping us in various ways to get them here, but they came in a month late. In our business, the tree fruit business, the trees move along. As the season progressed, we missed a lot of events as far as what we needed to do in our orchards was concerned, but—
Certainly, in my comments I did talk about the enormous challenges to designing support programs and getting them out quickly, so we have appreciated the government's willingness to change and improve certain programs like CEBA and the wage subsidy.
To your point, with the temporary foreign worker issue and the ongoing labour shortages, shortly after that announcement was made with respect to the $1,500 for helping them with isolation requirements, a strong majority of our members, 73%, supported that.
I think the other part, though, is that it's interesting that 84% of our members say it's going to be difficult to find Canadians with the skills needed to work in their agricultural business. These are skilled workers, when you look at planting and harvesting quickly. If the weather is against you, you have to get your product in quickly and efficiently. We have recognized the hard work to ensure that those temporary foreign workers can come during the critical planting season and can help farmers offset the cost of quarantined workers.
The three-year agri-food pilot is really innovative and is going to fill ongoing labour needs, but what I like most about it is that it's going to provide a pathway to permanent residency, which for a number of years we have called and advocated for. I think the work done there has been very good, but let's not forget that we have thousands of jobs going vacant. We will have many in the horticulture and vegetable sectors that are going to need workers sooner rather than later, and we still don't have all that we need.
Thank you, Ms. Braun-Pollon. Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for you and for the whole panel.
We're done with this first hour. It's never long enough. There has been a very interesting conversation and testimony, and I really appreciate hearing from all of you.
From Noggins Corner Farm, I'm glad you could make it, Mr. Bishop.
From Equestrian Canada, Richard Mongeau and Kristy House, I'm really happy to have you on board.
Also, from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Ms. Braun-Pollon, thank you so much.
We will take five minutes to change the set and we'll be back, so set your clocks.
We will now suspend the meeting. Thank you.
My name is Catherine St-Georges, and I am a marketing consultant for the Union des producteurs agricoles, or UPA. I am also the secretary for the Table pour le développement des marchés de proximité, a local market development issue table established by the UPA in June 2019 and chaired by Mr. Groleau, the UPA's president.
The issue table is a forum that brings together some 30 organizations to discuss developing local markets. In my speaking notes, which were provided to you, I refer to information from the 2016 census. That was the first time the questionnaire included a question about direct marketing.
It's positive to see a question like that on the census form, but so far, the data are very preliminary. We are hoping for more detailed data on local markets in the next few years.
According to respondents, 19% of farms reported engaging in direct marketing. That doesn't mean that they only sell products directly to consumers; it simply means that they have. For instance, it might be a dairy farmer who has a sugar bush and sells maple syrup directly to consumers. Direct marketing encompasses farm stands, farmer's baskets and farmers' markets.
We don't have any data on how those sales impact farm income, jobs or acreage, but we do know that these farms need more temporary and seasonal workers to support local markets. What's more, these farms usually devote more hours to the business, meaning, that the owner spends more time working in the business than a traditional business owner. In many cases, the owner has a job outside the farm.
A total of 57% of businesses that reported using direct marketing had less than $50,000 in sales. Generally speaking, they are small farms.
I should point out that all of these figures relate to Quebec farms.
Quebec's ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food is examining the sales of all the traditional channels, including grocery stores, restaurants and hotels. By extracting the remaining portion, the ministry arrived at the sales of non-traditional channels. It estimates that, for 2018, some $800 million in sales is attributable to local marketing.
In Quebec, local marketing brings the farmer and consumer closer together. That can mean geographically, so, in the same administrative region—the distance between the farmer and consumer can't exceed 150 kilometres—or in terms of the middleman. The idea is to reduce the number of middlemen between the farmer and the consumer.
We set up the local market development issue table with our partners during the COVID-19 pandemic to help us better understand the resulting issues. In the short term, insecurity and the loss of markets and immediate income were the biggest concerns, as you can well imagine. For example, ornamental horticulture wasn't considered an essential service since it wasn't part of the food service sector. I'm referring to the sale of flowers and potted plants, which, very often, are sold directly to consumers. There was definitely a feeling of insecurity.
Quebec gave U-pick businesses the go-ahead to resume on May 28, which is late in the season. A wave of insecurity swept business owners, because U-pick accounts for a significant share of their sales. What's more, they don't know whether consumers will actually show up to pick their own produce. That's one of the challenges.
The closure of bars, restaurants and similar establishments resulted in a drop in income for farms involved in those markets. Certain municipalities opted not to open farmers' markets, which are the main source of sales income for some farmers. New farms, for instance, often rely on farmers' markets. The fact that markets aren't open on Sundays has also had an impact, given that consumers tend to go there on the weekend, which is when they would interact with the farmer and build those ties. If consumers can't go to Sunday farmers' markets, it will clearly affect sales.
The entire agri-tourism sector is stalled. Businesses aren't allowed to let consumers sample their products, so sales are far from guaranteed. On top of that, special events and festivals—normally a significant revenue stream for these kinds of businesses—aren't being held.
Obviously, like traditional business owners, farmers have access to labour. Workers are recruited through programs, so worker availability and the arrival of foreign workers also factor into the mix.
As I said earlier, these businesses hire a lot of workers, so if they can't rely on foreign workers for help, it affects activities on the farm. Financially, as far as cash positions go, supplier payments have been deferred. With fewer sales, income is down. This has created some financial insecurity. If no changes are made, some business owners have told us that they won't be able to keep things going for many more months.
Nevertheless, the situation does provide some opportunities, as you can see in my opening statement.
On the whole, consumers are heeding the call to buy local. We're sensing enthusiasm for buying local products, so it's important to capitalize on that. Agri-tourism and culinary tourism also offer potential. Since Canadians will probably be spending more time in Canada this year, there is an opportunity to develop those markets and take advantage of those potential visitors. Now that people have discovered online shopping, that's another promising area to keep in mind. All of these prospects can help farm businesses sell their products.
Now, I will turn to our recommendations. A program specifically designed to help build local markets would certainly be opportune. In my speaking notes, I've listed some examples for building online sales. There are businesses that have been able to do it, but it requires a certain level of infrastructure. Some regions still don't have high-speed Internet service, which makes online sales a challenge for them.
Support for the development of local slaughterhouses requires that supply be coordinated. Reducing interprovincial trade barriers is something else we recommend. We heard one example of a farm that sells its products right around the Ontario–Quebec border, but the provincial requirements differ, so that hinders the farmer's ability to build the local market. Additional funding would also be welcome for the program to purchase surplus agri-food products for food banks. Local farmers could then take advantage of the program.
On June 2, we appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, and we shared our recommendations for business risk management programming and the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Those measures could be better tailored to farmers' needs. Obviously, it's important to assess the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic now, because it's having an impact in the short term. It will also have an impact in the longer term, however, so revisiting these issues down the road is key, because our members are likely to raise new concerns over time.
My name is Catherine Lefebvre and I am the vice-president of the Les Maraîchers L&L farm, which works in the market gardening production of beets and red cabbage, as well as in the production of transplants for other market gardeners in my region.
First, I would like to address the issue of labour, which is of great concern to us. We are a medium-sized farm that hires a total of about 20 workers, including 12 foreign workers. Currently, only seven foreign workers have arrived, and considering the time it takes to prepare the files in Mexico, we are not sure we will have the five foreign workers we need to complete our cohort.
I won't hide from you that the workers who were supposed to arrive in June are eagerly awaited for our harvests. There are still many missing. According to the Association des producteurs maraîchers du Québec, the Quebec Produce Growers Association, about 60% of the workers have arrived; that data is subject to verification.
I have to tell you that the programs announced to date encourage Canadians not to work or to limit their hours to 25 hours a week, which creates great obstacles for us. There is a huge cost involved to train each and every one of these employees, in addition to all the equipment needed to ensure everyone is protected.
I won't hide the fact that it currently takes us two or three Quebec employees to replace a foreign worker in terms of efficiency, but especially in terms of endurance, since they have to work between 10 and 12 hours a day. Enormous costs are generated in connection with labour, as we know full well that after a day or two of work on our farms, or a week at the most, they start looking for a less physical job. Then we have to start training other workers all over again, and everything else that entails. In addition, protective measures must be more rigorous for our Quebec workers since, given the relaxed restrictions, there are more and more outings and risks for our farms as well.
All of these measures, including the two-metre physical distancing, have a cost, as they have a direct impact on our performance and will also affect our profits during the season. Since there was no program adapted to our Quebec workers, we had to take the lead by increasing their wages to keep them on. When the COVID-19 crisis began in mid-March, we were packing beets from the previous crop, the 2019 harvest. Our work schedule at this time of year is between 35 and 40 hours a week. When the Canadian emergency response benefit, or CERB, was announced, we realized that if we wanted to motivate our troops, we would have to adapt. So we decided to round up the workers' pay so that they too would have a take-home pay of $500 a week.
We know very well that people who receive the CERB will have to pay taxes, but we had to find a way to motivate our troops to come to work rather than sit at home with their families and avoid the risks related to COVID-19. There should be a program to improve the wages of Quebec employees who get up every morning to feed people and earn more than minimum wage, in order to bridge the gap with the wages improved by all the other programs already in place.
We were also able to hire three 14-year-old students, who do not have access to any programs either, because they are not 15 years old, which is the age of eligibility for the majority of the programs in place. So I'm asking the government to change the age of eligibility, because at 14, young people are very capable of doing manual labour on a farm, whether it's weeding or tending crops. We need those who want to work, regardless of their age.
As for the 75% wage subsidy program that was announced, it does not apply to us, since we are in a production period and we will only feel the drop in income when we harvest, even though the costs related to COVID-19 and obtaining the necessary equipment are being incurred now.
Changes should also be made quickly to counter the losses caused by the measures we have had to put in place to promote the retention of our local workforce and to conduct the quarantine of our foreign workers.
I would also like to talk about the program that offers $1,500 per foreign worker. This program is intended to cover the cost of quarantine. That was changed along the way. Now it only covers the costs that have been charged to us by another company or the take-home pay of our foreign workers. It does not take into account the time spent by our staff on grocery shopping, taking temperatures, the extra needs of our workers, government deductions and renovating our facilities. The program would really have to be changed to take all that into consideration.
Aside from all the constraints we face in a normal year, whether it's the difficulty of competing on world markets or the whims of Mother Nature, we live with a sword of Damocles hanging over our heads at all times. If there's contamination on our farm, what consequences will follow?
Will we have to leave our fields for 14 days without irrigation and spraying? How can I deliver my transplants to other growers? I'd be putting their crops at risk. This would affect business and personal finances.
As market gardeners, I think we've listened to your requests. We have sown all of our fields as usual, despite the lack of labour. On the other hand, we are experiencing, day after day, a great deal of uncertainty in terms of managing the risks associated with our crops.
What about the programs that are supposed to be there to give us some respite from the turmoil we are experiencing? We have recently learned that we will have no crop insurance to cover labour shortages. When are we going to hear about the AgriStability program? I know there has been a request from the produce sector to have the AgriStability trigger set at 90% instead of 70%, and to have the payment made at 85%, but we haven't heard back from you on this.
We're constantly being asked to use the money we have in our AgriInvest accounts, but if we do, when will we get that money back to invest in our businesses at the right time? These are accounts designed to invest in our businesses, not to bail them out. If we use that money, our businesses will decline quickly or be bogged down when the time comes to buy new equipment.
The equipment needed to improve our packaging plans or harvesting equipment is very expensive. That's why we need to keep money in our AgriInvest accounts. We'll need that money the day we have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to change broken or obsolete equipment.
We can't use this money to make up the shortfall due to the pandemic. These amounts have been accumulated over the years. We are managing our businesses well. In many cases, it has been better to borrow money to buy equipment, since we had to pay taxes in connection with the AgriInvest account. Program changes should be considered.
I would like to begin by thanking the chair and the committee for having this opportunity to speak.
My wife and I own a small mixed fruit and vegetable operation in Nova Scotia, which I have been farming for a little over three decades. We grow a mix of tree fruit and some berries, as well as many different types of vegetables. The bulk of our sales go to two separate public farmers' markets within the province. That has been the bulk of my business for my entire life.
When COVID hit a couple of months ago, both of the farmers' markets closed, and essentially I had to pivot and completely change my business model. What I did was I had a small community-supported agricultural online sales business, and I expanded that business substantially and moved the bulk of my business into online sales.
We noticed a massive increase in demand. It's been challenging, but we have been able to move all of our product. Although difficult, it has been, generally speaking, okay up until now at least. We have not yet entered the full season. It's only June. As we get into more production, we'll have to see what happens, but as it stands now, by pivoting the business and going to an online sales model, we essentially changed how we sell the products that we grow.
I just want to make a comment on that. I've also been in touch with the dairy sector about this information. I think both the international trade committee and this committee were led to believe that the government understood the significance of the dairy year starting August 1.
I believe that, as Mr. Barlow said, it's the job of the opposition. We may not be able to change the date, and it may be set in stone, as Monsieur Perron said; however, I would like to know the reasoning behind why this decision was ultimately made.
I'm looking at the wording of the motion. If this request were to go through, we would probably have several banker's boxes of documents dumped on the committee. The decision was ultimately made at quite a high level, probably assistant deputy minister or higher, and if the committee wants to look at amending it slightly, maybe that's where we can try to get the actual documentation from: ADM and up to the ministerial level.
The bureaucrats who are working with the dairy farmers right now are not the ones who made the decision. They have a great working relationship with the dairy farmers. Ultimately, what we're interested in is the why. Why was this decision made for July 1 rather than August 1? I think it's an appropriate avenue to be looking at, because I don't think to date we've really gotten a clear answer on why one date was picked over the other.
Please indulge me for a few more minutes for next week's business.
The minister has agreed to appear before the committee on supplementary estimates A at our next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, June 10. Following that, we'll move back into our BRM study.
Also, we need to take some time, and I was looking at taking an hour next Friday. We need to provide instructions to the analysts as to what to include within the letter on BRM the committee wishes to draft. My understanding is that the deadline to submit one is before July 3.
I believe we also have to discuss other matters such as the extension and scheduling.
That is all I have on this, unless there are any questions.
I guess it's about formatting the letter. We want to think over the whole format and how we would draft that so we can give instructions to the analysts.
Mr. Bialais, do you need instructions today?