Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.
I am pleased to rise in the chamber today to speak to this motion on supply management. Agriculture in general is an always important topic that requires our attention. The basic necessities of life and well-being should remain at the highest level of importance for government. Being able to feed our people should always be a primary responsibility.
In that vein, we as a government and as a Parliament have the responsibility to ensure that our agricultural producers, all of them, have the tools they need to farm and supply the market with quality and wholesome foods at a reasonable price while getting a return from the market that covers their costs of production.
In Canada, we have been able to achieve this in the dairy, poultry and egg industries through supply management, a fair agricultural model. Canada's dairy, poultry and egg industries contribute $12.3 billion to the Canadian GDP. They generate $6.8 billion in farm cash receipts, sustain more than $39 billion of economic activity and employ more than 215,000 Canadians throughout the country.
Whether we represent a rural riding, an urban riding or a cross-section of both, ensuring that producer concerns are heard and acted on is the responsibility of all members of Parliament. That is why in 2003 I started the Liberal dairy caucus as a vehicle to ensure that producer concerns on issues such as labelling and use of dairy terms, dairy product standards and import controls were heard by the innermost levels of the federal government.
It is also why at the start of this Parliament I introduced Bill C-264, an act for the recognition and promotion of agricultural supply management. The purpose of the bill is to establish and implement the Government of Canada's policy respecting agricultural supply management. Simply put, it is intended to recognize and promote supply management and ensure that supply management is preserved in Canada.
I was also very pleased earlier this year when the Liberal Party of Canada passed a resolution at the national biennial reaffirming our party's long-time support for supply management. It also called on the Government of Canada to “recognize and reflect formally in agriculture and trade initiatives the three pillars of supply management” and “defend and promote supply management, the Canadian Wheat Board and all single-desk selling during negotiations at the WTO”.
This brings me to why we are discussing this important issue today. Next month, the sixth ministerial is taking place in Hong Kong. While it is not expected that full modalities will be achieved, decisions could still be taken that could jeopardize Canadian producers' choice of domestic marketing systems.
The WTO negotiations have reached a level where specific proposals have been tabled by the most influential members. These proposals are not in the interests of supply management.
The Canadian government needs to go to the negotiations with the strongest negotiating mandate possible. We support the objectives of the Doha round, but we cannot put Canadian agriculture on the table when no other country is willing to do the same.
The proposals currently being discussed would result in Canada having to reduce our over-quota tariffs and increase access to the Canadian market for imported dairy, poultry and egg products. The loss of Canadian market and the loss of price stability will compromise Canadian farmers' ability to receive a fair return from the marketplace. This is simply unacceptable.
Canada's strategy to seek the creation of a fair and equitable trading environment is not supported by the most dominant and most trade-distorting WTO members, the United States and the European Union. It is clear that the Government of Canada must take a strong stand in WTO negotiations on agriculture.
A recent study prepared by trade expert Peter Clark for the Dairy Farmers of Canada suggests that the current WTO agricultural negotiating framework will not ease the imbalances among the participating countries. The EU and the U.S. have bought flexibility to reduce their over-quota tariffs by providing huge amounts of domestic support to their farmers.
For example, the new study demonstrates that U.S. dairy farmers had access to $13.8 billion U.S. in direct and indirect support in 2003, meaning they can get about 40% of their income from federal, state and local government subsidies. These subsidies effectively limit access to the U.S. market. The U.S. advocates tariff cuts because it can limit access while trying to increase U.S. exports to other markets.
Our dairy, poultry and egg producers are demanding this as our negotiating position because, first of all, cuts in over-quota tariffs will eliminate farmers' ability to predict the level of imports coming into Canada. In turn, farmers will be unable to match supply with demand and thereby ensure that there are enough domestically grown products to meet the needs of Canadians from coast to coast. Farmers and consumers alike deserve stability. We cannot allow any cuts in over-quota tariffs.
Second, farmers negotiate fair prices for their food based on what it costs to produce it. The income farmers receive is made without relying on taxpayers' dollars, unlike in the United States and the European Union, where farmers are subsidized to a staggering degree. We cannot limit the ability of dairy, poultry and egg producers to receive a fair price from the marketplace.
Next, we cannot accept a cut in our over-quota tariffs nor can we offer more access for our dairy, poultry and egg sectors. Canada is already giving more access for dairy, poultry and eggs than the U.S. or the EU.
Canada offers import access to about 4% of the market for dairy products, 5% for eggs and turkeys, 7.5% for chicken, and 21% for hatching eggs. In contrast, the U.S. currently offers 2.75% access for dairy products and the EU offers only 0.5% for poultry. If we cannot achieve an equitable minimal market access of 5% in all countries, then we should not allow any increase in market access commitments in Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs.
This Parliament owes it to Canadian farmers to think beyond our own interests and send a strong message to the governments of the other 147 WTO members that we are for, first and foremost, a fair and equitable rules-based trading environment. Second, and very important, we are for achieving a level playing field with real market access that is fair and equitable across the board. Finally, and equally important, we are for recognizing that we all have areas that are more sensitive and we need the ability to offer some protection to those areas, but in an equitable way for all our member countries.
By way of conclusion, I note that this is a very important debate today. This is a very important motion in support of supply management across this great country of ours. It is something that all parliamentarians should take heed of, should note and should defend to the nth degree. It is something that we owe our farmers and our producers. It is something that we owe our rural communities. It is something we owe all consumers by way of choice in terms of having a solid and good supply managed system in place.
It is something that all parliamentarians and indeed all Canadians should support and actually feel quite good about, because it is a system that has worked well in the past. It is a system that we must defend and preserve. It is a system that we must carry forward into the future because a lot of communities and this country's economy depend on a strong supply managed system.
I applaud all of those members of Parliament who are speaking on this important initiative today. I applaud everyone who is in support of supply management, because it is a good system. It is worth promoting, defending and carrying forward.