An Act to increase the availability of agricultural loans and to repeal the Farm Improvement Loans Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Gerry Ritz  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act to provide financial support for farmers, including beginning farmers, and farm products marketing cooperatives, as well as to allow for intergenerational farm transfers through a loan guarantee program. It also allows for the adjustment, by regulation, of amounts and percentages set out in the Act. Finally, it repeals the Farm Improvement Loans Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

May 26th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, time is very short and I want to offer my apologies to the hon. member for Halifax West for this interruption.

There have been discussions among all parties in the chamber and I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding the Standing Orders or usual practices of this House,

the House revert to “Presenting Reports from Committees” for the sole purpose of reporting back from committee, Bill C-29, An Act to increase the availability of agricultural loans and to repeal the Farm Improvement Loans Act and Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act; and

when Bill C-29 is reported back, it be deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed; and

during the debate on May 28, 2009, on the Business of Supply pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and, within each 15-minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflect the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

Canadian Agricultural Loans ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to speak on Bill C-29. During my remarks, I hope to explain the benefits of Bill C-29 and why the Liberal Party will support a quick passage of this bill. We in fact are willing to pass it through all stages and get it to the Senate so that it can be dealt with quickly and kick into gear, because the bill has been very late coming.

However, it is also critically important for the Conservative government to actually bring forward immediate measures that would deal with the income loss problems of primary producers.

I will outline those areas and propose some solutions.

The reality is that the minister talks, as the parliamentary secretary did in his remarks, of putting farmers first. However, when we drill down into the minister's record, it is nothing but a record of failure. The bill, in its final analysis, would add to what the government has been most successful at doing; that is, increasing farm debt.

Since the Conservative government has taken office, farm debt has increased by $5.1 billion and now stands at $54 billion, four times higher than that of the United States' farmers.

Worse, in recent years, this debt has not been for new technologies or new investments, in the main, but much of it has been for primary producers borrowing more money or gaining advance payments program money loans in the hog and beef sector just for their very economic survival. In the agricultural industry in this country, some commodities are in serious trouble.

So let us be clear. While the bill would provide availability of credit to farmers, it is not designed only for the interests of the farming community. It is designed, in its final analysis, to guarantee the banks 95% protection on the money they have lent.

In fact, if we look at the Prime Minister's announcement, he states that he will bring forward new legislation to guarantee an estimated $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and co-operatives.

So let us be clear. The Prime Minister did everything he could in the announcement to make it look like he was providing $1 billion. He is not providing $1 billion. It is loans that are coming from the lending community, and the Government of Canada, through this legislation, is guaranteeing the lenders 95% security on those moneys.

The real problem in the farm sector is price, stability of income; and that, the government fails to address. I want to be very clear on that. Adding debt, then, will just not do it. Farmers' real challenge is sustainable farm income, and I will come back to that serious issue in a moment.

Bill C-29, then, really is about amendments, as the parliamentary secretary said, and it would provide a new loan guarantee program for these areas. Farmers would be eligible for new loan limits of up to $500,000 for the purchase of real property, and $350,000 for all other loan purposes. New farmers and producers taking over the family farm would be eligible for loans. They are not currently eligible under the current legislation, and I think that is important for intergenerational transfer.

However, keep in mind, the big issue on intergenerational transfer and why in my question earlier I talked about farms stopping at the sixth generation is not just access to credit. The fact of the matter is they cannot balance their balance sheets economically under the current pricing regime, and the government is absolutely nowhere to be found. We are losing some industries in this country.

As well, as the parliamentary secretary said, agriculture cooperatives, including now the ones with a majority of farmer members, 50% plus one, would be eligible for loans up to $3 million for the processing, distribution or marketing of farm products. But that is an important point in itself. It used to be that we had 100% farm members. Now we are dropping to 50% plus one. That tells us that there is a serious problem in rural Canada in that the assets are no longer there for the farmers themselves to provide the asset base and the stability for those cooperatives, and we have to go to others in the community. That is a sad commentary, because farmers themselves need to have the asset base and the net worth to be able to provide for cooperatives in this country, which is a good system. A new online system would improve the delivery of the program, and we certainly agree with that.

However, again, I must mention, the bill provides far more guarantees for banks than it does for farmers, which speaks to the government record in increasing farm debt. Farm debt has skyrocketed to over $55 billion today. The real challenge facing farmers is sustainable farm incomes. The Conservatives have a long list of broken promises with regard to support for farmers.

While we can support the changes in Bill C-29 to better reflect the size of today's farms, we should not let the Conservatives forget the list of Conservative failures to help improve farm income. They promised hundreds of millions of dollars and raised the hopes of farm families, but then consistently failed to deliver on those promises.

In March 2007, the Prime Minister himself announced $100 million per year to farm families to address rising “cost of production issues”. That plan was cancelled in the 2009 budget before it was ever implemented.

Also in 2007, the Prime Minister announced AgriInvest, a new savings program to help farmers manage business risks. The Prime Minister touted this initiative as “programming that is more predictable, bankable and better enables farmers to better respond to rising costs”. Two years later, it still has not been implemented. I remind the parliamentary secretary, because he used those words of predictability in his remarks, it only works if farmers have income that they can put into the investment and the government is failing to assist in terms of that level of income.

In November 2007, the minister committed $6 million to strengthen value-added processing in Atlantic Canada to help struggling beef and hog farmers there. Now, a year and a half later, this money has not been provided and we find out that it is also a loan, more lending, more credit, not income.

During the 2008 election campaign the Prime Minister committed $500 million over four years to create an agricultural flexibility program, to help farmers build flexible programs to meet their local needs, but once re-elected, the government broke its promise again and announced a program of less dollars that could not be used for flexible programming. In reality, it was only $190 million over five years and was not allowed to be used for RMP in Ontario or ASRA in Quebec.

In budget 2009, the Minister of Finance announced a new $50 million investment in processing capacity for livestock producers. Then, four months later, it changed into a loan program, far from what cattle farmers were led to believe.

By golly, Mr. Speaker, I almost forgot, do you remember when the previous minister announced the farm families options program, targeted to low-income farm families? After one year of a two-year commitment, it was cancelled in midstream.

That cancellation virtually robbed farm families of $246 million, money they had counted on. So much for the Conservative government putting farmers first. The fact of the matter is that what the Conservative government has done has increased debt and added to the farm community's financial instability.

Allow me to turn to some of the specific commodities, and I will make a few comments.

In P.E.I., the government's lack of action has caused, to a great extent, the loss of the hog industry. Roughly 80% of that industry has now gone in the last 18 months, and P.E.I. has lost its only hog slaughter plant. If the minister does not soon deal with assisting the regional issue of pork production and the one slaughter plant that remains in Atlantic Canada, then we could in fact lose the total regional industry. There are only four producers left in the province of Nova Scotia.

So I ask the minister to start to deal with the issue at the farm income level. There are several things that the minister could do. Certainly the minister has to come in with a major payment for the pork industry in this country, which is finding itself in financial distress, and nothing less than $1 billion in an ad hoc payment will save this industry.

The Canadian government must stand up for Canadian producers, must challenge the U.S. in terms of the country of origin legislation and ensure not more debt but that the cash is there to assist in the survival of this industry.

I would add a note of caution. If government does introduce an ad hoc payment, then it needs to be a total package. Number one, we need the ad hoc payment.

Number two, the severe economic hardship moneys that were advanced last year, which are now loans, were put in place not to provide income but to allow debt servicing so that farmers could maintain a credit line. Those severe economic hardship moneys must be extended out, not just using an ad hoc payment to pay off that debt, but that a new ad hoc payment can come in so that producers can use that for working capital they direly need.

As well, the beef industry is in serious trouble. Instead of dealing with the problems they have in that industry, the Government of Canada set up a system where they can acquire more debt. That is not what they need to do. I would suggest that what the government needs to do in this case is allow the current safety net program to work. First, eliminate the viability test; and second, allow producers the better of the Olympic or previous three years' average for reference margin calculations so that they can trigger the current program.

Regarding the current safety net program, if we remember back in the 2006 election, the Prime Minister said he was going to cancel the CAIS program. What did he do? He changed the name. In fact, the new AgriStability program is even worse than the old CAIS program in times of economic difficulty.

The suggestions I am putting forward for the beef and hog industries would allow the program to work for those industries. They cannot access the safety net programs now because the reference margins are not there. What I am proposing today is a simple solution so that the minister could allow the safety net programs to do what they were designed to do and allow hog and beef producers in my province of Prince Edward Island and across the country to be able to trigger a payment they direly need.

A similar situation exists actually in the potato and root crop industry in my own province of Prince Edward Island.

Last year, as the minister knows, there was a lot of weather damaged crop, which triggered the new agrirecovery program. The problem is that agrirecovery, although the government talks about it as a disaster program, does not work as a disaster program. The minister promised $12 million but only around $3 million was spent and that money was only allowed to be spent to assist in the costs of disposal of the crop, whether it was in the warehouse or in the field.

I have two neighbours in my home province of Prince Edward Island who are not planting this year because of the disaster caused by weather conditions. The government's program leaves them out in the cold and does not assist them. It costs $2,800 to $2,900 to grow an acre of crop. The agrirecovery program gave them $200 and it cost them $200 to dispose of the crop. That program is not working. What I would suggest to the government in that case is similar to what I suggested in terms of beef and hogs. The government should allow the agristability program to once again work. it should cut out that bad year and go back to the other years to get reference margins so that producers could at least trigger a payment.

I have two more points on the potato industry that I should make relative to Prince Edward Island. The government should not allow the disaster year to be counted in their production history. It is an event beyond producers' control. Weather crop loss is an act of nature. If it is kept simple and that year is not be counted in the production history, the producer would be more likely able to trigger a payment. The potato industry in P.E.I. and the other root crop industries really need a stay of default on the advance payment program so they can trigger that program again in order to have the working capital to put in a crop.

That is what is direly needed in this industry. Whether it is in hogs and beef, there are potential solutions. Credit is not the only thing that needs to be talked about. It is the same thing in the potato industry. Farmers need income and they need cash to do what needs to be done.

Again going to the record of failure, the government has been responsible for the loss of more slaughter capacity and value-added production in this industry than any other government in Canadian history. I will run through a list: two Maple Leaf Foods plants in Winnipeg and Saskatoon; two Olymel plants in Saint-Valérien-de-Milton and Saint-Simon-de-Bagot in Quebec; one Qualiporc Regroupement Coopératif plant in Les Cèdres, Quebec; and one Natural and Organic Food Group plant in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

CanFax Packers directory reported that out of 33 federally inspected slaughterhouses in January 2006, only 26 plants remained in January 2009. Among those that closed down were Blue Mountain in British Columbia, Rancher's Beef in Alberta, Natural Valley Foods in Saskatchewan, Gencor Foods in Ontario and Abattoirs Zénon Billette in Quebec.

My point is that the record of the government is one of failure. While the bill today is needed in terms of advancing available credit, it ties into the record that the only thing the government has been successful at is increasing debt and as a result our industry is in trouble. The government must seriously address within days making sustainability a firm income sustainable and that way producers would be able to pay back the debt and not just get additional loans.

Canadian Agricultural Loans ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I said in the beginning, we will support this legislation but the policy of the government is anything but good. It needs to be put it into context.

I asked the parliamentary secretary a question previously and I will ask him again. I may even get an opportunity before we are done to ask him a third time. Will he just stand in his place and admit that what Bill C-29 would do is guarantee the lending community, on the additional billion dollars of credit availability, that it is backed up at 95% to the lenders? Will he just stand in his place and admit that this bill is for the protection of the banks? If we are going to protect farmers in this country, we should protect and add to sustainable farm income. The government has failed to do that.

I had to go through a litany because there is no government in Canadian history with such a dismal record, a record of failure that fails to deliver income to producers. The bottom line is that it has increased the debt of farmers by $5 billion and we have lost 3,500 farmers a year. Can the parliamentary secretary stand and say he is proud of that? I would hope not.

Canadian Agricultural Loans ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2009 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-29 to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act.

The Bloc Québécois supports this bill. However, even though the government members might not be happy about this, we will raise some concerns and issues that could have been resolved through this legislation or other programs. Some questions must be asked. Nevertheless, this bill does include some positive elements, and we do not intend to stand in the government's way, because we would like this bill to move forward quickly.

That being said, I want to point out that the government does not seem to learn from experience. As I have said before, this government is all about marketing. It makes wonderful promises and big announcements in perfectly planned settings, but afterward it becomes clear that the government is trying to force something on us and that the promises look different on paper.

For example, just before the most recent budget was tabled, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food made a big to-do about finally bringing in a truly flexible program. As we all know, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture had proposed a program called AgriFlex.

The minister said that he would invest $500 million in the program, just as the producers wanted. The program that turned up in the budget had nothing to do with what producers wanted, and risk management was left out. Also, instead of $500 million over four years, the government promised $500 million over five years.

The worst part is that the provinces do not have the flexibility they need to implement their own programs. In other words, the provinces do not have the flexibility they need to funnel that money into the programs that they have already set up. As it turns out, the announcement was not so wonderful after all.

There is also the issue of the “Product of Canada” label. Earlier, I talked about the consultations that were announced with great fanfare by the government on every issue. The principle is the same. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food discussed changing the totally obsolete rule for “Product of Canada” labels. I am going to explain this rule, even though it is very well known. Under that rule a food product could be labelled a “Product of Canada”, provided that at least 51% of its total cost was Canadian.

That aberration was obvious when we would see the “Product of Canada” label on a jar of olives, because the jar, the lid and the liquid were Canadian, but the olives obviously could not have come from Canada or Quebec. We have yet to see olives grow in any part of Canada, whether it is Prince Edward Island, Vancouver, Quebec or Ontario. Therefore, the legislation had to be amended, so that consumers would know that they were buying a food product that was really produced here, that really came from here.

So, the committee's consultations were going well, until the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced, on a farm located in the pastoral setting that I described earlier, that they were changing the regulations on “Product of Canada” labelling, and that this issue would be settled.

As for us, we had not even finished our work, we were still consulting people. Thus, they proposed a standard that Conservative members on the committee had never told us about, namely the 98% rule for obtaining the “Product of Canada” label. This has the reverse effect of the infamous 51% of the total cost rule. Before, anything could be called a “Product of Canada”, but now it is nearly impossible for a product to get that label. It seems that the government has not learned from its mistakes.

The member for Malpeque also referred to the options program, which had also been announced with great fanfare. The idea was to help the neediest agricultural producers but now, two years later, we realize that the program is not working very well and is not really adequate.

As we said before, it is hard to be against this. Helping the poorest farmers is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not at all what farmers wanted. The government decided to drop the program simply because it was not working. Insofar as consultations are concerned, I wonder where the government went in order to realize that these changes were not wanted. It sure laid an egg with this program, which no longer exists.

The purpose of Bill C-29 is to increase the availability of loans to help farmers get established or to develop and improve their farms, including through the processing, distribution and marketing of farm products. We will therefore vote for this bill. The government will make loans more available by providing loan guarantees at designated financial institutions.

The Bloc Québécois wants to remind the House that farmers often find themselves in a precarious situation as a result of the decline in farm income, the economic crisis and all the various problems that have affected agriculture. The government should not use this bill, however, as an excuse for not taking other measures that should be implemented to help various agricultural sectors deal with the crisis facing them.

We are also concerned about the latitude the government has given itself by retaining the right to change the process and criteria by regulation. If the minister is given broad discretionary powers, we may be left with terms and conditions that make particular programs available in theory but the minister has the power to block it all. I will provide examples later if time permits.

The amendments to the current act will ensure that beginning farmers—the next generation therefore—are included in the definition of a farmer, and that is a good thing. The amendments will also extend eligibility to farm product cooperatives whose members are at least 50% + 1 farmers, instead of requiring all members to be farmers, as was previously the case. In addition, the bill increases the availability of loans by including in the definition of a lender other designated organizations.

The bill also amends the current legislation regarding the percentage of a lender’s loss that can be reimbursed for loans to farmers that are guaranteed by the government. This provision provides compensation of as much as 95% of the losses suffered, unless a lesser percentage has been fixed by the regulations. This is an example of the minister’s discretionary power. It is the same in clause 4(2)(c), where the government reserves the right to add various kinds of livestock to the program or eliminate them from it.

The bill also makes it possible to use the loan to buy land and not just new land, as was previously the case. This small but important adjustment makes it possible to use the loan to buy shares in a corporation or membership in a cooperative and allows for intergenerational farm transfers, instead of limiting it to the purchase of new farm land.

As for the famous consultations with stakeholders, I saw the document the government released. It is available on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website. The government did hold consultations across Canada. In Quebec, they took place in Longueuil. To my great surprise, the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, the Coop fédérée and the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec were not present at this consultation.

This makes me wonder whether the government was truly committed to consulting the people directly affected by such measures. Many people from the banks were present. Earlier, the member for Malpeque explained that rather than being designed to really help young farmers and producers, the bill was designed to help the banks and guarantee the credit they would then give to producers and young farmers.

I also spoke to Frédéric Marcoux, the president of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec who said he was nonetheless “enthusiastic about the political will to support beginning farmers, which the federal government eventually affirms”.

It is important to quote the federation's press release, which says:

However the Federation regrets that the young farmers were not previously consulted and would like to know more into details the ins and outs of the program, before giving a more precise opinion...the loan insurance problem is not the main difficulty for the youth who wish to start in agriculture.

The federation president stated:

“It would be good to involve us much more in the thinking process engaged by the federal government, a preliminary diagnosis of the situation of the establishment in agriculture in Canada would be a good basis to then propose suitable and efficient measures.”

We can see that young people are very aware of what they need and want and that they did not feel at all involved in the government's decision to introduce such a measure. They did not feel that they had been listened to. The Minister of State for Agriculture is a member from Quebec, and every time questions are put to him, he answers that he is listening carefully and that he is very open. I have rarely seen a minister with such large ears. But I think that he is not listening to the same people we are. What we are wondering is: whom is he listening to? Whom is he consulting?

Earlier I referred to the example of the “Product of Canada” label. That is a perfect example. One might wonder where the minister was, or where the Prime Minister was. Where were those individuals when everyone agreed that 98% was completely unacceptable? Yet the minister says he is listening. It appears he did not listen to the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec, since it was not even invited to the famous consultation that took place in Longueuil.

In Canada, I found only one location, Newfoundland, where young farmers were in fact represented. I must admit, somewhere in Canada, one person spoke on behalf of young farmers. That was in Newfoundland. Everywhere else, there was not one representative of young farmers in attendance at those consultations. That is simply not enough.

As for the positive aspects, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, whose new president is Laurent Pellerin, commended these measures, which will give farmers a boost. Mr. Pellerin said that young farmers and cooperatives are a vital part of the agriculture sector, and that the proposed changes could be helpful in that regard.

The Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec also pointed out that Quebec is losing more than one farm per day and that the problem must be addressed through fiscal measures, in order to preserve existing farms and keep them from going under. It said that the government must take these factors into consideration if it wants to help young farmers and that, more than ever, the problems facing the next generation of farmers must be at the heart of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s concerns.

Unfortunately, young farmers gave their opinion after the fact. It would have been better if the government had heard from young farmers before Bill C-29 was drafted.

We are talking about consultations and listening to stakeholders. It is no surprise that the Bloc Québécois is always ahead in Quebec. The reason is simple: we really go out and meet people, and hear what they have to say. That is what we did with young farmers.

In January 2005, the Bloc Québécois organized a conference called “Vers un transfert de fermes gagnant”. The Union des producteurs agricoles took part, as well as the Bloc québécois and the Syndicat de la relève agricole de la Côte-du-Sud. The conclusion we reached was that several tax measures could be taken to help the next generation of farmers. If the government is really serious about helping the next generation and establishing winning conditions, if I may use that term, to ensure that the farm sector survives, it should listen to the proposals that came out of our 2005 conference.

That is not all the Bloc did. On several occasions, it put forward motions proposing these ideas. I managed in committee to have them included in the recommendations made in various files in order to ensure that the government knew that some very effective measures could be taken.

In order to make it more attractive to transfer farms rather than dismantle them, the Bloc Québécois suggested in particular that the capital gains deduction on agricultural property should be increased from $500,000 to $1 million. A change was made and the amount is now $750,000, although this could be increased to $1 million solely in the case of transactions which result in the farm being maintained.

We also suggested the government should extend the rollover provision to other transfers beyond parent–child. We said it should be extended to other immediate family members less than 40 years of age. It could be brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, grandparents, grandchildren, and so forth. It is good for farms to stay in the immediate family, but we should not prevent them from being transferred outside the parent–child relationship. It would be very easy to expand this and make it easier to hand down farm assets.

We also proposed a farm transfer savings plan that would enable farmers to accumulate a non-taxable retirement fund. Governments could also contribute, as they do in the case of the education savings plan. This contribution would be conditional on the farm being preserved after the transfer.

We also suggested that the government make the home buyers' plan more flexible to allow young farmers to obtain, in whole or in part, a larger portion of a residence owned by a corporation and to use their RRSP to acquire an agricultural business. Currently, the home buyers' plan, also known as the HBP, allows individuals to use their RRSP to purchase a residence. The next generation of farmers has asked us to propose two measures to make the home buyers' plan more flexible so that they can acquire a farm, not just a residence, for the purpose of becoming a co-owner of the family farm, not just a homeowner.

This proposal comes directly from those representing the next generation, those who know what they need. After plenty of proper consultation, we think that the government could easily implement these measures. It would have been nice if some parties other than the Bloc Québécois had made similar proposals during the election campaign.

We also proposed that the federal government transfer a recurring envelope of funds to the Government of Quebec to encourage young people to take up farming. For example, the Government of Quebec could extend access to the start-up subsidy, improve interest rate protection and raise eligibility limits, introduce a start-up subsidy for young people starting up in agriculture part time and gradually moving into full time, and create a single-window approach to match farms with no succession and young aspiring farmers without farms.

These were the ideas that came out of a tour by the Bloc Québécois concerning land use. My colleague for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, who is present, participated in this tour of Quebec. It is obvious that if we do not foster and support agricultural succession, farms in many regions will disappear. We have already provided some statistics. The member for Malpeque and I spoke about this. A number of farms cease operations every day in Quebec and Canada. We have to be proactive if we do not want farmers to disappear. These measures, which are loan guarantees, will be welcomed by some sectors.

Just last week we heard pork producers say that they are being affected by H1N1 even though we know very well that this flu is transmitted from human to human. They have not yet put their problems behind them and this type of program will not help.

This program also will not help potato farmers in Saint-Amable who are still fighting the golden nematode, which struck in 2006. They still do not have a long-term plan for alternative crops.

Therefore, there remains work to be done. I invite the government to reread what I just said about measures to help the next generation of farmers. It might really give a little bit of help to those who need it.

Canadian Agricultural Loans ActGovernment Orders

May 11th, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. He is newly elected to Parliament and therefore a new member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. I want to say that his contributions there have been very helpful. He has really good ideas and I am happy to sit on this committee with him.

He had some really good things to say as well in his speech, especially when he said that measures like the loan guarantees in the program that Bill C-29 would provide are little more than a band-aid solution when what we need is a real agricultural policy. People are entitled to that, not necessarily in this bill, but in general. How is it possible that since this government came to power in 2006, there has been a total absence of any agricultural vision or policy to help farmers?

My colleague knows, of course, that Ontario and Quebec grain producers have joined forces to promote a program designed by and for them and implemented by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. This is the AgriFlex program I mentioned earlier.

Can my colleague explain why the government did not simply look at what is in this kind of program, advocated by the grain producers of Ontario and Quebec, instead of trying to complicate things, because the government always says why make things easy when they could be made hard? The producers have their own income support program, but they would like the federal funding for agriculture to go directly to the provinces, which can then adapt the federal programs to their own needs and the needs of their producers.

Why did the Conservatives promise this in the election campaign? Why did they promise it just before the budget and then table a document that made a total hash of what the farmers had presented?

Can my colleague explain what the government was doing here?