Evidence of meeting #45 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 industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Blair Coomber  Government Co-Chair, Beef Value Chain Roundtable, and Director General, Multilateral Relations, Policy and Engagement Directorate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Florian Possberg  Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable
  • Andrew Gordanier  Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation, Sheep Value Chain Roundtable
  • Travis Toews  Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

In terms of insurance and that sort of thing....

4:10 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

Well, we've been moving forward in how we can manage risk better by using some of the commercial tools. Of course, hedging forward-selling product is quite a challenge for smaller producers in particular, so we're working on a program where.... The real issue around small producers hedging is margin calls and what you do when the market turns against you.

A true hedging program has really no risk. The commodity market takes the risk. But what we are working on is a program whereby the federal government helps secure the producer's margin, so that when he actually takes his product to market, he can enjoy the price that he fixed at an earlier time and not get squeezed out.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Right. So you're saying that you would like.... Are you finding the answers you're looking for in the private sector or are you looking for that in government?

4:10 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

Well, really, the mechanism to forward price is in the private sector. The ability for producers to really access that fully is.... They need some help. Bankers, particularly in our sector, where we have had difficult years, their willingness to secure margin accounts for a product that's not yet sold is.... It's really difficult for us to do.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you.

Mr. Easter, you have five minutes.

June 6th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I apologize for not being here for the presentations. I was called in a little late.

I appreciate you coming and putting forward your position on the total value chain.

My question is mainly for the pork and beef round tables initially. What are the implications of Canada being asleep at the switch, I would say, on the South Korean FTA? The U.S. has an FTA, which was signed in May, as you know, or came into effect in May. I'm told that within two years, if we do not get into our own FTA, we'll be non-competitive in that market, and it's something like a billion dollar market.

Is that what the implications are? Can you give us a little feedback on that? Basically, I'm saying that the government needs to get on this one.

4:10 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

Yes, South Korea is a very premium market for us. They would rank about third or fourth in terms of value of exports last year, but in terms of the value per kilogram, they would rank only behind Japan, which is sort of the premier-premier.... We are disappointed that we have not been able to negotiate the beneficial agreement that the Americans have.

You're probably right. As the American tariff does wind down, we probably will lose that market without a free trade agreement, so we're encouraging the federal government to do whatever is necessary. That being said, we think progress is being made, perhaps giving us preferential treatment in our very number one market, which is Japan, so we're working with government. But there are a lot of different strings being pulled in a lot of different areas, and we are disappointed with the Korean outcome.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

I sit on the trade committee, Florian. There's no question about it—there's pressure from the auto industry the other way, but it is a premium market.

I think it's basically the same thing, Travis, for beef. I don't think it's as big a market for beef, but it's a premium market.

4:15 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

Yes, the Korean market is a very important market for Canadian beef. I was in Seoul earlier this spring and we met with the trade there. At this time, Canadian product is not disadvantaged significantly in terms of the duty that's applied. Over time, that spread is going to increase as we move past the U.S. FTA implementation date.

For now, Korean importers and retailers are actually positioning Canadian beef as a real premium product, which we were pleased to see. They believe they can extract a premium from a lot of that product in Korea, so that's positive. But there's no doubt about it, a Korean FTA is high on our priority list as well.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

In fairness, I think we probably have two years, from what I'm hearing, before we really become disadvantaged.

Two questions, one on the temporary foreign workers program you mentioned. We're extremely concerned about that in the cash crop industry—whether producers have enough time to bring in foreign workers because the application period has to start in December. Changes to EI may impact that. I've been in both the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon and the Cargill plant. How could changes in that program affect that part of the value chain, the processing sector?

Secondly, there's something I'd like you all to think about, the value chain, all three—lamb, beef, and pork. Are you looking at the structural discrepancies in the production base across the country? We've seen that in Atlantic Canada, in the beef industry more than any other. But we were really disappointed that we could not get another year on the hardship loan in Prince Edward Island, because we were a year behind catching up to the pricing, but the government wouldn't come through on giving it a year. In fairness to them, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association wouldn't agree. As a result, we have had some more producers go out of business.

We're to the point in the production base in my province where we're down about 40% of what we were five years ago. The federally inspected small beef plant that we'd like to keep in business is having a supply problem. If we lose that plant, then we have to ship to Ontario. For us, the livestock industry is the core, whether it's potatoes, cash crop, or whatever, in terms of rotation of crops, land use, and so on. So it's not just that industry itself, it's important for the total industry.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Mr. Easter, ask your question.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Are you doing anything in terms of the structural discrepancies across the country?

Sorry, Mr. Chair.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

I wanted you to get to the question, that was all.

4:15 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

We can certainly talk about structural discrepancies. There's no doubt that, as with any industry that goes through difficult times, an industry restructures. Typically, those are the times restructuring takes place. I'm convinced that the Canadian cattle industry has emerged as a more competitive industry as a result of some of the restructuring that took place.

With regard to the emergency advance on the advance payments program, you're correct, we did not ask the federal minister to further extend that program. We believed that he provided very fair terms. Cattle producers like to pay their bills. We all knew it was an advance. It was extended, in our view, for a sufficient period of time. We believed the repayment terms were sufficient, and so we didn't ask for a further extension.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

That's my point, Travis, there are differences across the country. In Atlantic Canada we were not in the same price position as you were in western Canada.