Evidence of meeting #12 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was organic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Richard Robert  Chair, Canadian Farm Business Management Council
  • Heather Watson  General Manager, Canadian Farm Business Management Council
  • Ted Zettel  General Manager, Organic Meadow Co-operative
  • Bob Seguin  Excutive Director, George Morris Centre
  • Johanne Van Rossum  President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec
  • Mathieu Pelletier  Management Agronomist, Réseau d'expertise en gestion agricole, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

4:55 p.m.

Management Agronomist, Réseau d'expertise en gestion agricole, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

Mathieu Pelletier

I would like to add that access to capital is tough and that the price of land is extremely high. In some cases, farmers' lands and businesses are their only pension. They sometimes get donations, but at other times, they have to sell the business. In the future, producers should put money aside for retirement and for an easier transfer. The price of land will not go down, and access to capital is not going to be easier in the future.

Does that answer your question?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Exactly.

Depending on where you are in Canada, that issue is more relevant than others. There are parts of southern Ontario that would have the same issue. It's more valuable to put a greenhouse up, a house up, or a windmill up than it is to actually grow soybeans or something else.

When you look at your next set of programs, I'm not sure if there's a role for the federal or provincial government to actually claim that or not.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Malcolm Allen

I'm sure there might be, Mr. Hoback, but you're well over time.

Perhaps someone else will help with the question.

Mr. Rousseau.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

The first question is for Mr. Zettel.

You said that organic farming is much more complicated in Canada. Does this make your products less competitive compared to non-organic products? What can we do to reduce this gap on the market?

4:55 p.m.

General Manager, Organic Meadow Co-operative

Ted Zettel

The fact that it's more management and labour intensive to produce organic crops adds to the cost, and results in a differential at the retail level. I don't think it's up to the government to try to change that.

What the government could do would be to assist new producers who want to learn those methodologies to make them efficient—that would go back to my earlier suggestion of extension—and to assist in encouraging the infrastructure necessary to get the product from the farm to the consumer.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Do you think we can be more competitive internationally, on the international market, with measures like that?

4:55 p.m.

General Manager, Organic Meadow Co-operative

Ted Zettel

Yes.

I believe we probably have great potential to be competitive in the organic food business internationally. As a matter of fact, there is a large trade in organic product going out of Canada already. Emerging markets in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. are very significant and present a very significant opportunity for the Canadian agricultural sector. The problem is that we don't really have enough producers now to meet that demand.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Yes, there is more demand than supply.

4:55 p.m.

General Manager, Organic Meadow Co-operative

Ted Zettel

Correct.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

I now have a question for the people from the Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec.

You said you have helped a number of producers to make their management practices healthier in order to be more competitive. Have you noticed any recurring problems that producers are dealing with? Are they lacking management skills? Is it an administrative burden? Is there a way to help producers in difficulty to have healthier management practices?

5 p.m.

President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

Johanne Van Rossum

I would say that all of that. As we mentioned, the adaptation strategy that is now in place, the multidisciplinary approach, would be a good solution. Our management consultants have told us that, once the assessment was done and should the cost of feed be too high, they would not be able to provide producers with a concrete solution and tell them specifically which expenses to cut down on. If we know that the cost of feed is too high, the multidisciplinary approach seems to be the best option to lower it. But at the moment, this approach is strictly used for businesses in difficulty. In order to have access to those services, there are very strict criteria to be met. Those services are accessible only when things are going very badly. In the long run, we would like this approach to be available to as many producers as possible.

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Pelletier, can you add to that?

5 p.m.

Management Agronomist, Réseau d'expertise en gestion agricole, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

Mathieu Pelletier

Basically, you want us to list the recurring problems. We can easily name two: the price of feed and the price received for products.

A study was done on the price of feed. I don't have all the details, but I know that the price of feed is higher in Quebec. That's recurring. I am not just talking about dairy products. In all areas, we see that the price of feed, such as grains, is increasingly higher. That's a recurring problem for businesses. Given that feed is the biggest expense for businesses, this is one of the main concerns.

In terms of prices received, we are talking about marketing. Earlier we were talking about marketing on a smaller scale and the regulatory burden for abattoirs. That can be one of the solutions to help producers stand out on the market.

5 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Do I still have time?

5 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Malcolm Allen

You have half a minute.