Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the invitation to be here.
I had the opportunity to attend this committee meeting last week when you had the CFIA and the Competition Bureau in. I was gratified by the discussion around the table and by the indignation expressed by committee members, and I probably can't add much to that.
I would like to just point out the comment that Mr. Miller made at this committee meeting with regard to grapefruit, and the further commentary he posted on the Internet that grapefruit can be labelled “Product of Canada”. That makes our regulation a joke.
Mr. Miller further went on to talk about garlic and how garlic that actually has been imported from China is labelled as a product of Canada because of the labour used in chopping it up and because of the container. That makes our regulation deceitful.
We believe it's past due that we look at the “Product of Canada” definition, and the list goes on.
I don't think there's anybody in this room who doesn't think that the consumer's being deceived. You could include apple juice. When we had Wendy Mesley at our annual meeting this last February, she talked about fish travelling 24,000 kilometres. I don't remember what waters the fish were fished in, but they travelled 24,000 kilometres to get to High Liner in Nova Scotia, stopping in China on the way here for processing, and again being labelled “Product of Canada”.
I spoke to the Alberta beekeepers a few months ago, and they've been trying very hard for years to change the Canada No. 1 designation on honey. That's a grading standard, but again, it gives the consumer the feeling that this is Canadian honey. They told me that at least half of that honey is from China as well.
What's just as important is we believe that the consumers really would like to be able to make an informed choice, and we know that farmers would like to compete, but it's very difficult to meet those twin objectives when imports are allowed to masquerade as Canadian products. Again, we feel it's important to do something about it.
We've talked before at this committee about the consumer research we did on whether consumers would like to buy Canadian products. You will recall that between 90% and 95% of the consumers polled said that Canadian products should always be clearly defined on the shelf. Between 90% and 95% said they would like to buy Canadian products, would always buy Canadian products if they were competitively priced, and we know that “competitively priced” does not always mean the lowest price. Eighty percent supported an initiative such as “grown in Canada”. Fifty percent said that they would be willing to pay a premium for Canadian products, and in fact 73% of that 50% said they would be willing to pay a higher premium if part of that premium would go back to the farm gate.
It would be interesting to see consumer research of that sort after the recent episodes we have seen on W-FIVE and Marketplace.
Having said that, we certainly support the minister charging CFIA with revisiting the “Product of Canada” definition. We think it's an excellent first step. In that process, we would like to see the elimination of the confusion between “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada”. We would certainly support raising the content level when the definition is changed, increasing it from the 51% that it currently is at. If that standard is raised, then also, if a product is substantially changed within our very high food-safety standards, there could be another designation that could be “Processed in Canada”. But the “Made in Canada” label we would like to keep for TVs, or widgets, or whatever.
Of course, we do not think that the containers should ever be included in a “Product of Canada” definition. Let's face it: when consumers go to buy food, regardless of the container that it's in, they're not going to eat the container. We believe the consumer thinks that “Product of Canada” talks about the ingredient in the container.
We certainly support the minister's mandate to the CFIA, but CFA members, including UPA and DFC and the Canadian Pork Council, which have been very instrumental in working on this initiative, we believe should go even further than whatever changes might be made by the CFIA to the “Product of Canada” designation.
We would like to see something that talks about 100% Canadian, something that's outside of regulation--because we know that could take quite some time, and it might not go far enough. So the CFA members decided to go to an initiative that we have called “Grown in Canada”.
We know the consumers would like to be able to make an informed choice. We know farmers would like to brand Canadian products. Look, we spend a lot of time, energy, and money bragging about Canadian products internationally. Why don't we brag about Canadian products in Canada as well? We know that imports create a challenge when it comes to competing with imports that haven't been produced within the same food safety standards and haven't had the same costs that are imposed by higher environmental standards and higher labour standards.
We're suggesting a two-pronged approach. One is to have a very clear definition of a “Grown in Canada” product—we're suggesting calling the label “Grown in Canada”. It would be a 100%-Canadian product if it's a single product such as meat or fruit. Also, if you have a combination of different ingredients, the major ingredient must be 100% Canadian.
Then, of course, having an initiative such as “Grown in Canada” would also dovetail easily with the provincial-specific initiatives that are already ongoing, or local initiatives that are already ongoing, or even commodity-specific initiatives that are ongoing, such as the blue cow label that Dairy Farmers of Canada have. We envision that these could all work together and complement each other and make sure the consumers have enough information to make an informed choice.
Then, tied to that, we believe it's extremely important that we have a positive campaign to market that “Grown in Canada” label and to let the consumers know what it's about. What does it mean if they see that “Grown in Canada” label? It could tell the good-news story about agriculture in Canada, it could talk about the high environmental and food safety standards that we have, and it could really market that Canadian product.
That marketing campaign could also explain to the consumer how it's tied in with buying locally, or produced or processed in Manitoba, or whatever provincial-specific initiative we might be able to add onto it. That way, we don't have to spend any time doing a negative campaign against imports coming from other countries. Let's be positive about it, and let's positively market our Canadian products.
CFA members have already worked with other farm organizations to talk about this initiative. We've worked with downstream industry. Food Processors of Canada are supportive of this; Canadian grocery distributors are supportive of this. We envision a non-profit organization that would administrate an initiative such as this. Yes, we would need some funding to start it, to do this marketing campaign until it could be self-sustaining.
On behalf of that envisioned organization, CFA has already submitted a trademark application for “Grown in Canada”. Again, we believe this can be a really, really good news story if we market it right and we show the consumers, who we know want to buy Canadian products and who are very supportive of Canadian agriculture, and make sure we do that positive marketing campaign, together with very clear information.
To close, let me say, this should not be confused with mandatory country-of-origin labelling such as the U.S. is proposing. We are against it, and in fact have already suggested to the government that if at all possible they should initiate a non-tariff trade challenge, either within NAFTA or within the WTO, because we think the voluntary labelling of our own Canadian products is a much more positive and better way to go.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.