Thank you, Mr. Chair, and also to the witnesses for their presentations today.
Ms. Kawaja and Mr. Blondin, I just want to say, coming from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, where you've opened your new plant, your new facility, in Wallaceburg in my riding, that I know it's been a great addition to the economy there. Wallaceburg has been hurting for many years. It was great to see that kind of investment. I believe you said that $23 million was invested in that processing plant.
The community was excited about these direct new jobs that would come from this processing plant. Also, it was not just about jobs in the processing plant. The farmers were then able to supply you with the produce—like you said, the cucumbers for pickling, the peppers—and they were so excited. I've heard from some of the farmers in my riding who have said that it's great because they can cut down on their costs and they don't have to freight their products to the United States any longer.
As you said, most of the pickling cucumbers go to the U.S. to be processed, so to be able to ship them in Canada and keep our crops here in Canada has been great. We've seen huge reductions on freight from this. It's great to see it freshly harvested from the field and going straight from the field to the factory, whether it's in Wallaceburg or Quebec. Thank you for that investment in our community.
I just wanted to touch on what you said, which was that you've had a hard time with labour, and that's also been a bit of a factor. I'm wondering, with the new programs that have been announced.... I'm not sure how much you rely on students for your labour, but we as a party proposed a plan to try to get students involved in agriculture or agri-processing, because we obviously want to secure our food supply and keep businesses such as yours here in Canada. Would that program be helpful for you if we could match students with jobs in the industry? What is it looking like as far as getting the labour force out there goes?
Also, for the farmers who you deal with on a yearly basis, obviously with production going to be down.... You've alluded to a lot of health and safety processes that have to happen, which slow down production and mean that you can't produce as much through the facility. Also, you rely heavily on food service distribution products versus retail products. How is that going to affect the farmers and their supply chain, knowing that they planned their crop months ago and that at this point they're getting stuff in the ground right now?