Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good day, everyone.
As you well know, Mr. Chair, our government's top priority is the economy, and Canada's agricultural industry plays an important role in that economy by creating jobs and driving growth. Since day one our government has committed to helping farmers earn more money from the marketplace. I am pleased to see that our government's strategy is delivering real results.
Over the past few years agriculture has truly emerged as a driver of the Canadian economy helping lead us out of this last recession. No longer is agriculture like the kid who couldn't skate, who always got put in goal. Today the agriculture industry is making the plays and supporting the entire team.
Going forward, the sector can look forward to continuing strength. The medium-term outlook over the next few years is positive, showing high prices for grains and oilseeds, modest growth for cattle and hog production, and stable growth for supply-managed commodities. Net cash income for 2011 is forecast to rise 24%, a new record. Average farm net operating income topped $65,000, up 27% over the previous five-year average. Net worth is expected to come in at $1.7 million by the end of this year, up 10 percentage points over two years for the average farm.
In 2011 our farmers earned more money from the global marketplace than ever before—over $44 billion in agriculture, food, and seafood exports. That's up over 12%—almost 13%—from 2010. Of course like farmers we are not resting on our laurels. Last month we led trade missions to China and Washington, two of our largest trading partners. A great number of agricultural industry leaders were with Prime Minister Harper and me in China.
We are working very closely with industry partners in China to get more of our product into that market of 1.3 billion consumers. We came home with almost $1 billion in new sales for our canola, tallow, and genetics, including the first access for our beef tallow to China in almost a decade. This follows on the heels of new beef access to South Korea, our last major Asian customer to reopen its doors to our great Canadian product.
With population growth and rising demand in emerging economies, our focus has moved towards a more bilateral approach to trade. We're working with all agricultural industries to align our trade priorities, target those markets they need, and make deals that will ultimately strengthen the farm gate. Over the past six years we have concluded nine free trade agreements and have many more in the hopper. Those include, of course, agreements with the European Union, Morocco, and of course India, which is a huge customer for our agricultural products.
We're also exploring new multilateral opportunities such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, since we know that increased trade with Japan would be very beneficial to the Canadian agricultural industry. We'll continue to push forward our free trade agreements despite the opposition so we can ensure that farmers are able to compete on a level playing field rooted in fair and science-based rules. Of course we continue to foster the world's largest bilateral trade partnership with our friends in the United States. I had another very good meeting with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just ten days or so ago. While we might not always agree on who has the best hockey team, Tom and I always have a good frank discussion on the agricultural issues that matter to our very integrated agriculture industries.
At this stage of our economic recoveries, we agree that no one can afford a thickening of our border. That's why our two countries are committed to reducing duplication and streamlining regulation through the “Beyond the Border” initiative and the Regulatory Cooperation Council. We also agree that policies must be rooted in sound science. Canada continues to work closely with our like-minded trading partners such as the U.S. to develop a globally accepted science-based approach to low-level presence of GM materials.
With respect to mandatory country-of-origin labelling, industries on both sides of the border say that COOL is hurting our integrated beef and pork industries. The administration in the U.S. needs to do what is necessary to end the restrictive nature of COOL as soon as possible for industries on both sides of the border. We know that when something is not broke, don't fix it. That's why the Harper government continues to state very clearly in every platform and Speech from the Throne that we strongly support Canada's supply-managed system.
Time and time again we continue to stand up for our industries on the world stage. After all, the dairy industry is a vital part of the Canadian economy, generating $5.3 billion in farm-gate revenue and 160,000 jobs for Canadians in 2008, all the while not taking a penny in support payments from Canadian taxpayers.
We're proud to support the supply-managed industries. We'll continue to support them as they continue to help drive our economy.
Farmers are heading into the new crop year with more new opportunities than ever before, thanks to the passage of the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act on December 15—and I'm glad Wayne got here in time for that. A big part of our government's strategy for long-term prosperity for Canadian farmers has been to bring marketing freedom to western Canadian farmers. As we work through the transition to the open market we're doing all we can to ensure certainty and clarity for western Canadian farmers.
That's why western Canadian farmers are pleased that the recent Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench threw out the frivolous injunction motion of the former directors. It gives them the clarity and certainty they need to move forward with their business plans and rightfully market their own wheat and barley.
Farmers are now forward-contracting their wheat and barley with buyers of their choice for delivery beginning the next crop year, August 1, 2012. We're already seeing buyers competing for farmers' grain and new contracts, new alliances, and new risk-management tools coming on stream.
The CWB remains a viable voluntary marketing option for farmers of all commodities in all parts of Canada. Come August 1, the CWB will be able to source and market any grains from anywhere in this great country. It will have the flexibility to adapt its business structure to meet supply and demand domestically and globally. It goes into the open market with government backing for its borrowing, which is more than what any other company has.
The CWB is exploring new partnerships in negotiating grain-handling arrangements. In fact, it recently announced its first handling agreement with Cargill, giving it access to 34 inland terminals and four port facilities. This is further proof that the CWB will be a viable and competitive marketing option for farmers.
As the global population rises, consumers are increasingly demanding more food of a higher quality, and of course food produced with a smaller environmental footprint. Innovative science-based technology is becoming more critical than ever. This new dynamic is driving our discussions around the next round of agricultural policy. I applaud the great work going on at this table and the work going on in our science clusters and value-chain round tables.
Our partnerships with industry, provinces, and academia continue to provide the results that Canadian producers and processors are looking for. The time is now for farmers to capitalize on past achievements and take advantage of world-class research, market access, and more efficient regulatory systems.
Of course, food safety remains a top concern for Canadians and this government. Working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency we're delivering a stronger, more efficient and transparent inspection and protection regime for Canadians. Rapid changes in global trade and technology are challenging the agency to review and update its legislative and regulatory foundation and modernize its inspection regime. The CFIA is taking concrete steps to be more effective, responsive, transparent, and accountable to all Canadians. The objective of this government is to strengthen our ability to protect Canada's food supply, while not creating barriers to trade and unnecessary red tape that slows down the speed of commerce.
The government has addressed all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill report, and new food safety legislation was part of that commitment. In terms of regulation, the CFIA is engaging with Canadians to discuss its regulatory modernization strategies. This strategy will build on the government's commitment to reduce red tape and overall regulatory burden. Our objective in all of this is to reduce overlaps, bridge gaps, and make regulations more straightforward for all concerned.
Beyond legislative and regulatory renewal we're also taking a look at CFIA's service delivery. Mr. Chair, I'm sure you'll agree that Canadians are best served when the CFIA and industry are able to work together cooperatively, constructively, and proactively. That's why our government recently unveiled a new statement of rights and services for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This will ensure that consumers, producers, and other businesses know what services they should expect from CFIA, and what rights and responsibilities they have when dealing with CFIA.
Beginning April 1 this year there will be a new single office where Canadians can go with any questions, complaints, or disagreements about a regulatory decision or its application. We will benefit from a safe and efficient food industry, so this government is doing everything we can to ensure that the coordination and relationship between industry and CFIA supports this common goal.
The agency is also well along in its multi-year process to implement an inspection modernization plan. This plan is supported by the government's 2011 budget investment of $100 million to strengthen front-line inspection and science within the agency.
To close, everyone agrees that yesterday's solutions can't meet the challenges of tomorrow. We need new approaches for a new generation of agriculture. A revitalized CWB along with our focus on innovation and trade are all part of a comprehensive plan to strengthen our overall economy.
We want to help entrepreneurs harness innovation, add value, and create jobs right across this great country.
I look forward to working with you over the coming years to grow new opportunities for our farmers and our food processors.
Thank you for all you do, Mr. Chair. I look forward to your questions.