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 management.

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

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Are there costs for the services of your consultants?

4:15 p.m.

President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

There are costs, even if you are a cooperative.

Do the farmers seek out your services, or do you solicit the farmers? Perhaps both are true, but what is more common?

4:15 p.m.

President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

Johanne Van Rossum

I would say that we solicit the producers. Actually, there are two things. For two years, the producers whose businesses are in difficulty seek us out more. It has become a requirement for businesses in difficulty to use management services.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It's a requirement of the government or—

4:15 p.m.

President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

—of the system [Inaudible—Editor].

4:15 p.m.

President, Fédération des groupes conseils agricoles du Québec

Johanne Van Rossum

Exactly. Those adaptation strategies suggested by the provincial government have only been in place since 2010 or 2011; so they are new. But we are also working with producers in the long term. It is important to meet with producers on a regular basis. By visiting farms regularly, we can foster a management culture. In the past, there were a number of programs that were offering one visit only, a one-shot deal. They would take a picture, make an assessment and then leave them to sort things out for themselves. Now we work differently. We don't just take a picture. We provide follow-up, assistance, and so on.

Your question about whether we have compared the financial results of producers dealing with the group to those of medium-sized farms is interesting. I don't know.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Pierre, I know you're on a breakaway, but....

4:20 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Anyway, that was a very good answer.

We'll now move to Mr. Eyking for five minutes.

Welcome back.

November 17th, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Chair. It's always a pleasure. I see you guys are progressing as usual.

I guess with the killing of the Wheat Board and supply management being on the table and getting axed, I started looking at the crystal ball of the future of agriculture. It's inevitable that these small farms are not going to have their marketing clout, and they're going to wither.

We saw it when we visited out west. We saw the orchard growers in the Okanagan. They're just going out of business. I think if these two marketing agencies are gone, you're going to see small farmers and probably dairy farmers in Quebec or grain farmers going out of business.

It's been mentioned that we can be more efficient and have larger-scale operations and that we'll be all right. That concerns me, because who are we going to be competing with? There's nothing like competition if it's fair competition. Are you going to be competing with Brazil where they can have two crops of soybeans? Are you going to be competing with New Zealand for cheese when they don't have to house their animals or cut the forage? Then you also have the U.S. and the European treasury, when we know that there is a near-one-dollar subsidy for every bushel of grain in the U.S. along with all the subsidies in Europe.

We see this. We're going to be more efficient. We're going to be larger. But at the end of the day, are we going to produce more? Are farmers going to make a better living? Are more young people going to say they want to get into that industry since it's so much better now than it was when the other things were in place?

I guess my question is whether we are going to be able to compete. Is it going to be a better environment? Are we going to have young people beating down the doors to be farmers because there's going to be more money? Or are we going to have mega-farms that are going to be beholden to agribusiness and maybe retailers, and be making less money because they will be competing with these areas that have better production and better subsidies?

My question will be first for Bob from the George Morris Centre. Give us a little snapshot of what it will be like when this thing starts going the other way.

4:20 p.m.

Excutive Director, George Morris Centre

Bob Seguin

I'll start by saying that I don't agree with the supposition that the demise of the mandatory Wheat Board will be the end of grain production. It will mean changes, and not everybody will be happy, but what the western Canadian farmers have done with canola and pulses is an example of what the possibilities are. It isn't smooth, but it's there.

On the dairy and poultry and egg supply management, despite the media attention, there are strong expressions of support for the sector by all governments in Canada. Also, we would never interfere with the U.S. farm policy inside the United States and we would probably not anticipate that from any other country inside our country. The challenge is how we handle the trade aspects of it. That won't be very easy either.

But I'll take your point.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

I want to lean the question a bit, because I have only one shot at this. What if we negotiate the dairy industry and the New Zealanders are really pushing us? What if this happens?

4:20 p.m.

Excutive Director, George Morris Centre

Bob Seguin

First, let's look at the small number of farmers in this country who are producing most of the food. It's a fragile number and they're not producing it on a whim and a whistle and a theme of just wanting to go out in the morning and do a few things. They have to produce it using resources, financial resources on a large scale. They have to manage large amounts of farm machinery, and now manage people who are going to run that farm, because they're too busy managing the farm. They require lots of skill sets, and to do that they need capital, opportunities, and financial resources. That is the situation today. It's not as if it's something brand new.

The other thing in the case of the United States, New Zealand, and others is whether they have the capacity to make the products come into Canada. We do not see the New Zealand dairy industry as being all hot and bothered about moving into Canada to take over our entire markets, since they have great opportunities elsewhere and have constraints on their capacity. Americans have constraints on their capacity, as we do. There is only so much room to move.

We don't see this as the end of the small farmers. We see this as a reshuffling. A number of farmers will, as they have done since the post-war era, go out of business. But some of the policies actually encourage the use of land and resources in some enterprises that are no longer as viable.

My colleague beside me is an excellent example of a smaller operation growing up to be a reasonable size, and of being cooperative and different. The Government of Canada and the provinces allow for this. So how do we best encourage this? I have colleagues on both ends of the table. It's their programming and their efforts, and they're working primarily with farmers. But how do others work best in this marketplace, given that there are a certain number of safety nets and other activities, to be competitive locally and globally?