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View Ben Lobb Profile
View Ben Lobb Profile
2020-05-13 17:18 [p.2304]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here tonight. I just want to correct the record. The member for Brandon—Souris was incorrect in some of his comments at the beginning about his origins. Wingham is in the riding of Huron—Bruce, smack dab in it. Of course, Huron—Bruce county has some of the best agricultural lands in the country.
I would also mention to him that former NDP member Pat Martin was also not too far down the road from where his relatives grew up. I am pretty sure he is not related to him. Maybe he had it too good in Huron—Bruce and he moved out west. I do not know, but we are happy to have him here tonight.
If we go back in history to the years from 2006 to 2015, those were 10 of the best years that Canadian agriculture has known. It is indisputable and I cannot reiterate that enough.
When the Conservative government came into power in 2006, there was a lot of work to do and we did a number of different trade deals. It really changed the direction and dimension of agriculture. It was not only agriculture, but it certainly benefited from a number of those trade deals. We also did things with red tape and a number of other things that allowed farmers to get out from underneath some red tape and bureaucracy so they actually could focus on their operations. I can think of people not too far down the road from me who upgraded their machinery a few years ago. They put GPS equipment in, and have different rippage and tillage systems for their cash crop. Those were very good years.
It could be a fluke, but it likely is not, but over the last five years there has been a downward trend in the sentiment and reality for agriculture in the country. Farmers have a different outlook on agriculture, unfortunately, than what they did just five years ago, and it is not in just one sector. It is not just in dairy; it is in all of the other supply-managed sectors. It is in the cash crops, beef, pork and in all the other sectors that we would call agriculture. Their outlook is diminished and there is a number of different reasons why.
That is where we need to start this discussion today with Bill C-16. We are not anywhere near where we were just a few short years ago.
Three trade deals need to be discussed as well today: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, what the government now calls CPTPP; and then the USMCA.
When we were in the 2015 election, we came to a resolution midway through it. There was an agreement with TPP, which included the United States. The supply managed sector said that this was setting up for future generations in agriculture. It was a very positive time. It put everything to a conclusion, a finality, and allowed everybody to think about moving forward and about the investments and growth that would be there.
Subsequent to that, we have had a number of issues. Some of them are in direct compensation. I am speaking particularly around dairy. There have been a lot of complaints about that. There is a lot of uncertainty around TPP. With USMCA, there are some ballpark figures. However, certainly the way in which these dollars will be delivered are still to be seen. That is an issue.
What we are dealing with today is something we will call a positive. It is an action that needs to be taken. As the member for Brandon—Souris said, it is not enough for all of agriculture. I wish we could be talking about further compensation for pork and beef, but we are not having that conversation today.
Also, I would like to talk about processing capacity. It would have been fantastic if we could have had something in the bill. I know there has been some money allocated to processors, but I understand it is pretty well for PPE. I do not understand, for the life of me, why Cargill, one of the largest processors in the world, with deep pockets, needs money for PPE. It seems to me it would have its own money for it. Maybe it could have help getting PPE, but certainly it could afford to purchase its own.
I have talked to trucking companies that truck directly to dairy, and trucking companies that truck to other facilities. They are ineligible for all of these programs. They are the ones that do not usually have front-line people on the cutting edge of what is being used for PPE, so that is a frustration.
If we look at the province of Ontario and what has happened in the last number of years with processing, specifically around beef and pork, it is very frustrating. We have seen Quality Meat Packers close. We have seen Ryding-Regency have its licence pulled in December. Right now, there are about 12,000 head of cattle processed each week in Ontario. Of that, 1,500 could have been from Ryding, but Ryding is out of the picture. This is not to say that Ryding was completely innocent with respect to its infractions, but the frustrating thing in the Ryding situation was the cloud of secrecy after the initial violation occurred.
No member of Parliament in this House, except perhaps the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, the Prime Minister and maybe cabinet, would know exactly what the issues were at that specific moment back in the fall of 2019. No one knows. I tried to find out exactly what happened, exactly what the final straw was as to why it was pulled, and we do not know. The media does not know. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association does not know. I do not think Beef Farmers of Ontario knows, to this day, what the final straw was. The issue is that once it is pulled, that is it. It has to start back from scratch. That is a problem.
In the future, it needs to be transparent and open, so that if it is the will of the House of Commons to help deliver a financial package or a dollar solution to it, that occurs, because now, for example, kosher beef, almost all of which Ryding provided to Canada, is coming from Mexico. We saw last week in the news that ground beef is coming from Uruguay.
I would challenge the Minister of Health and the ag minister to show anybody on this side of the House of Commons that Uruguay and Mexico are as diligent with their inspectors regarding ear tags and cattle being unloaded at a processing facility with a limp. Currently, if one gets the wrong inspector, the animal is euthanized. It is five feet from being put on the line, and now it is scrapped.
How about traceability? How about the new transportation rules the government has imposed? How about the new rules it imposed at cattle auctions for further processing of horns, etc.? I bet it is not even close to what we put our producers through here, and the fines they get, such as a $1,500 fine if the animal does not have an ear tag so they know what farm it came from. There is a lot we need to do with the CFIA and transparency. There has to be a reality whereby if we are importing beef, those countries have to be held to the same standards we are, or we have to come to an agreement as to what all the standards are.
There also needs to be an investment in greenfield processing capacity, at least in Ontario. I am sure there are other parts around the countryside. Conestoga Meats in Breslau is a great example in the pork sector. It is a kind of public-private partnership. In spite of the pandemic right now, it is doing very well. Farmers have a share of the hooks, and it works out quite well.
The other thing I wanted to talk about, which I did not get a chance to do earlier today, was really to go back to what the member for Brandon—Souris said. To my mind, the minister said that we are going to go with our business risk management programs, and she talked about the calculator. One of her pork farmers received $11 a head. If that is not proof enough to the House that this is not working, every person who has a pig farm in this riding is losing $70 a head because of this pandemic and the processing capacity. They are losing money unless they have a contract, which many do, but some do not.
When farmers are losing $59 a head and the agriculture minister says that AgriStability is going to give $11 a head, what is the point? It is not enough. As I said earlier today, it is not like this is old MacDonald's farm with 10 pigs in the barn. There are thousands of pigs, and the losses are in the millions and hundreds of thousands.
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