Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the President of the Treasury Board.
I am very pleased to be here to ask members for their support for this bill, which is very important for Canada's dairy industry.
I am pleased to speak today in support of this bill to increase by $200 million the Canadian Dairy Commission's capacity to buy milk. The proposed amendment to the Canadian Dairy Commission Act will significantly help Canada's dairy farmers to manage their surplus milk, while helping to meet food security demands across the nation.
Our dairy farmers have adopted the social media “#HereForCanada during COVID-19 and always”. I would like to share the collective message to Canadians from the Dairy Farmers of Canada's website, which reads, “One day, not very long ago, we woke up to find the world had changed. But one important thing has stayed the same: Canadian dairy farmers continue to work tirelessly, day-in and day-out, to ensure that Canadians can feed their families with milk produced to standards among the highest in the world.” This is such a powerful message, one I know that is filled with the passion of the dairy farmers in my riding.
Every evening at 7 p.m., we hear Canadians out on their porches cheering and banging pots and pans in support of our front-line workers. Those workers include Canadian dairy farmers and processors, who are working tirelessly to feed the nation in these uncertain times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all sectors of the economy. One of the major challenges is that the dairy industry is facing volatile demand for its products. When the crisis first began, consumers started panic buying and shelves were quickly emptied. However, soon after, demand plummeted once consumers had stocked up and restaurants were closed. Demand for milk took a further nosedive following mass closures of hotels and schools, which had stopped buying cheese, cream and other dairy products.
With thousands of litres of excess milk and no place to sell it, some farmers have been faced with the difficult task of disposing milk that they know would otherwise nourish us. At the same time, we are also hearing about the struggles of food banks and community organizations to provide adequate food supply to those most vulnerable in our communities.
Across the nation, dairy farmers and processors, despite their own overwhelming challenges, are stepping up in a big way for Canadians. They are donating dairy products to food banks and their communities. In all, the industry has committed more than $10 million in dairy products to food banks across the country to support Canadians in need. Despite these efforts, however, some producers were forced to dispose of their milk as a last resort.
What is greatly needed is greater capacity to store butter and cheese processed from milk. That is where our government's bill to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act comes in. The role of the commission is as critical as it has ever been at this time of extreme challenges to farm income and food security due to COVID-19. In periods of lower demand and high production such as in recent weeks, the CDC purchases butter from dairy processors, stores it and then sells it back when the demand improves.
Currently, the act limits the CDC's line of credit to $300 million. This has not changed in 25 years. The bill before us proposes to raise that limit to $500 million, and for very good reason.
To help restore stability in the marketplace, dairy producers and processors supported the CDC's request to increase its line of credit in order to extend existing programs and create new ones, such as storing cheese. This credit extension will give the industry some breathing room until this crisis has passed and equip the CDC with the means to manage future crises. It will minimize food waste and ensure we can all enjoy the fruits of our dairy farmers' hard work.
Dairy Farmers of Canada has welcomed the announcement, saying it will help to offset the impacts of bottlenecks in the supply chain that have prevented the smooth operation of the dairy value chain that allows milk to get from the farm to the store shelf. Increasing this capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission directly aligns with our government's key actions to ensure food security.
Last week, as part of the federal investment package of $252 million to support our agri-food sector, the Prime Minister launched a first-ever surplus food purchase program. It is being supported by an initial $50 million fund and will help redistribute surplus foods to local food organizations that are serving vulnerable Canadians. Dairy Farmers of Canada also welcome this measure as a way to get our dairy products to those most in need.
This government believes in the importance of food security, and the recent allocation of $100 million through the food policy for Canada in support of food banks and other community organizations on the front lines is a testament to this fact.
Food Banks Canada is receiving $50 million, with an additional $20 million evenly divided between Second Harvest, Community Food Centres Canada, Breakfast Club of Canada and Salvation Army. These organizations will work with local partners to meet urgent and increased food needs, including those in indigenous and northern populations. Organizations can use the funding to purchase, support and distribute food, hire temporary help to fill volunteer shortages and implement biosecurity measures, such as the purchase of personal protective equipment. The last $30 million will be allocated later to fill the gaps and respond to further needs.
As well, we will invest $25 million through nutrition north to serve Canada's northern remote communities.
I am so inspired by everyone who is going above and beyond to help. Our deep thanks goes out to our dairy farmers and all those working in the agriculture and agri-food sectors. In uncertain times, it is more critical than ever for Canadians to have access to good, high-quality and nutritious foods, which include our dairy products.
That is why the Government of Canada is taking the step to further support our dairy farmers and processors, who provide Canadians with the food they need to keep them and their families healthy. With this bill we are delivering for our dairy industry in its time of need and supporting an industry that gives so much back to our economy, with over $6 billion in sales on the farm, almost $15 billion in processor sales and tens of thousands of jobs.
I began by quoting a message from our dairy farmers to Canadians, which concludes, “They say farmers help keep Canada strong, but the truth is feeding Canadians is what keeps us strong.”
I invite my hon. colleagues to step up as well and join us in supporting this bill.
I eagerly invite my hon. colleagues to collaborate by supporting this bill.