Evidence of meeting #43 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 producers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Dennis Laycraft  Executive Vice-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
  • Jean-Guy Vincent  Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council
  • Rick Bergmann  First Vice-President, Canadian Pork Council
  • Stephen Laskowski  Senior Vice-President, Canadian Trucking Alliance
  • Deanna Pagnan  Director, Livestock Transporters' Division, Canadian Trucking Alliance
  • John Masswohl  Director, Government and International Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

5:05 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Canadian Trucking Alliance

Stephen Laskowski

I think Deanna mentioned them, but it's not only key to have best practices on the issue. These have to move from being best practices to best requirements.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you very much.

Ms. Brosseau.

May 30th, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Frankly, I think that we could easily spend the whole day discussing this. I know because I have several questions for you.

My riding is rather rural. In D'Autray, there are 19 pork producers and in Lanaudière, there are 119. I take the interests of my constituents to heart. I know that since 2007, pork consumption has decreased. There is a lot of thought being given to the situation. People want less use to be made of the sow cages.

If we had a strategy, if we worked with the pork producers to establish a pan-Canadian strategy, do you think that that could encourage consumers to eat pork, and that they would be more inclined to do so if we could assuage their concerns?

5:05 p.m.

Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council

Jean-Guy Vincent

I don't know if we can link consumption to production methods. I am not sure that the two are related.

However, I think that we are already working together, under the code of practice. This involves several organizations sitting down together around the same table.

You say that there are a lot of pork producers in your riding and in the neighbouring riding. You are probably in a good position to know about their concerns. Earlier, someone referred to another topic. We were saying that perhaps people don't know enough about what we do, about what producers do.

Last week, there was a conference in Winnipeg, and Ms. Temple Grandin, who is a well- known expert in the area of animal welfare was in attendance. A lot of producers from all of the regions were present. Ms. Grandin was saying that producers should perhaps use tools like Facebook.

We producers don't do that because we are busy raising our animals. My wife and I own our farm. We work with my son, and the three of us are partners. Over the 40 years we have spent producing pork, we transformed our buildings on three different occasions to improve our livestock production and the conditions for our animals, since we work with them. If our animals are not well-raised, we will not make any profit, and our business will not be profitable. That is our main concern. That would be my first point.

My second point concerns the consumer. We were talking about pressure groups and perception. Earlier, we talked about perceptions with regard to transport. Today, there is a lot of pressure around that. That is why our message is the following: I, like others you know and we know in Canada and Quebec, treat our hogs well. If the governments want us to change the way we do things, we will do so. However, you cannot simply tell producers that they are at the bottom of the totem pole, and that for that reason they have to foot the bill for any changes.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

It is expensive.

5:10 p.m.

Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council

Jean-Guy Vincent

We are told that because we produce a core product, we are going to pay, we should reduce our salary and work even harder because people want something else. My message is the following: all Canadian producers raise their animals well, but if people want change, we have to be given the means to make those changes. The consumer has to be aware of the fact that he is going to have to pay.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

You have to make sure that there is a demand.

There's a market for it.

We see that McDonald's, Burger King, Tim Hortons and Wendy's want to use—

They've all announced plans in the past four months to eventually only buy pork from farms with open housing systems. Maybe if they started using them in the future, they could reply to that demand.

5:10 p.m.

Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council

Jean-Guy Vincent

Did they ask producers what they thought of this? In their notice, did they tell producers that they were going to pay them more?

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

No, no.

5:10 p.m.

Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council

Jean-Guy Vincent

The members of the committee belong to various parties. In the past, all of the members worked together to improve agriculture. I hope that that is what we are going to do today. The government can go forward. If in addition, it has the support of the opposition... We are caught between the two. We want pork producers in Canada who have had difficulties over the past few years to get help, if the consumer agrees. All of the links in the chain, that is to say producers, processors, transporters, distributors, are involved. And the government and the members who sit in the House of Commons in Ottawa can help us. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

We're out of time. I was just letting you finish; I didn't mean to cut you off.

Mr. Vincent, just one suggestion, I'm a farmer and I don't think all this pressure you're talking about is coming from the consumer side at all. It's—I'll just say—extremists on the issue who pretend they have a voice. You talk about money or something. You talk about the extra costs. You either absorb them at the industry level, which I've come from, or you ignore them as an extremist.

That's all I'll say on the matter.

Mr. Shipley, you have five minutes.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I know my time is short, so first, to the beef producers, Mr. Laycraft and Mr. Masswohl, you talked about the importance of trade. I'm fortunate to be on the international trade committee, where we've had the opportunity to meet a number of times because of the significance of agriculture to the trade agreements. I think you measured a $700 million payback, in terms of being able to get out and expand markets.

But during your discussion, you brought up something, Mr. Laycraft, that I wanted to talk about. In regard to Canadian beef, you're advocating a price insurance program as part of Growing Forward 2. I'm just wondering if you could help me here on the number of producers and why that is a program, as we move forward.... I'm trying to understand it. You mentioned that Alberta now is using it. How many producers, either in numbers or percentages, are involved?

5:10 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Dennis Laycraft

I don't have the most current numbers, but I will say that it tends to move up and down with your insurance options and what it looks like your coverage will be. It's designed to allow you to take a look at a future price scenario. It essentially buys some insurance against that.

What's attractive about this is that it's a premium-based program. If you're buying more insurance, it will cost more money, but it increases your level of coverage. It also allows you to still have the topside in the market. In your contract in cattle, for instance, you've already fixed that price in there.

With the increased value of cattle and all the different challenges we face—weather challenges, and you can see the challenges we are experiencing in Europe and the impact that has on markets, and the volatility that we're dealing with—it adds another tool that producers can use to look into that period of time when they're going to be marketing those cattle. They can establish essentially what their break-even will be using this, and do it at a reasonably affordable level of coverage. Sometimes they'll take a look at what's available and decide they don't think that coverage is suitable, and you'll see the participation decline. Other times you'll see it increase.

Recently we saw some of the prices decline, and a number of people actually were able to get some coverage as a result of that program.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

I'm just wondering, when you're promoting it, is it 70% or 80% of the producers who are using it as a program that we should be implementing across the country, or is it...? Can you help me with that?

5:15 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Dennis Laycraft

I don't have the precise recent number here, but it's a smaller number than that.

Initially it was only available to the feeding sector. They're rolling it out to the feeder cattle, which will allow cow-calf producers and backgrounders to get involved.

But we'd be happy to come up with those numbers for you.