Evidence of meeting #20 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was producers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

René Roy  Administrator, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec
Stuart Person  Senior Vice-President, Agriculture, MNP LLP
Steve Funk  Director, Ag Risk Management Resources, MNP LLP
Jake Ayre  Farmer, Southern Seed Ltd.
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard
Mario Rodrigue  Acting Director General , Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec
Charlie Christie  Chair, Domestic Agriculture Policy and Regulations Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Sylvain Terrault  President, Quebec Produce Growers Association
Jocelyn St-Denis  Director General, Quebec Produce Growers Association
Justin Jenner  Beef and Grain Producer, As an Individual
Brady Stadnicki  Manager, Policy and Programs, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Thank you. I'll pass the rest of my time over to Mr. Lehoux.

Thank you very much.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Thank you, Mr. Barlow.

Thank you very much to all the witnesses for their contributions this morning.

My question is for Mr. Roy of Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec. In your presentation, you quickly mentioned the lack of flexibility in AgriRecovery. Could you tell me a little more about that?

What would you like to see changed in the AgriRecovery program?

11:35 a.m.

Administrator, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec

René Roy

I will let Mr. Rodrigue tell us what parts of the program could be improved.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Thank you.

11:35 a.m.

Mario Rodrigue Acting Director General , Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec

Good morning, everyone.

Here is the problem with the AgriRecovery program. Under the framework announced earlier this spring, the costs of euthanizing pigs are not eligible under the program, as Mr. Roy mentioned. Eventually, the pig flow issue was resolved, but not without leaving producers in trouble.

The flow of pigs was delayed and this affected certain technical parameters or efficiency coefficients of businesses. The requirement to keep pigs longer can cause a deterioration in feed conversion and average daily gain. It also has the effect of increasing the mortality rate. In some cases, farmers have had to put mature pigs and piglets in the same barn, which is really not a recommended biosecurity measure. This is becoming a major issue.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Rodrigue.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Chair, am I to understand that my time is up?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Yes, Mr. Lehoux, that is correct.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Is it my turn, Mr. Chair?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Yes, Mr. Drouin.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

I can take Mr. Drouin's time if he does not need it!

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you very much.

I am going to direct my first question to Mr. Roy or Mr. Rodrigue.

You mentioned that, in the way the AgriRecovery program currently operates, only costs related to euthanasia are allowable. Is that correct?

11:35 a.m.

Administrator, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec

René Roy

Yes, that is the information we have.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Rodrigue said the problem has been resolved in Quebec and producers will not need to euthanize their animals. Is that correct?

11:35 a.m.

Administrator, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec

René Roy

Yes, we have managed to reduce the number of pigs to be euthanized. However, the issue has not been resolved in all parts of Canada. You are familiar with Mr. Rick Bergmann. He said he will have to euthanize animals this week. That is the situation in Canada.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Ayre mentioned the regional issues observed in Canada. Obviously, the federal government shares this responsibility with the provinces. If I may, I would say that the provinces are in the best position to determine regional needs, because they know what is happening on the ground.

How can the problem be addressed through our risk management programs? When enough pressure is applied, the AgriRecovery program kicks in, but it is not necessarily the one that applies to you. In Quebec, you no longer have a euthanasia problem, but it is still an issue in other parts of Canada. What should be done to resolve this issue? Should more allowable expenses be recognized?

11:40 a.m.

Administrator, Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec

René Roy

As was presented earlier, the big problem is that many costs incurred by producers can be attributed to the fact that they have to keep their pigs longer. Rather than focusing on euthanasia and having the money to buy a shovel to bury meat that could be used, producers should be helped through the crisis so they are still there when it is over.

Not only should we invest in euthanasia, but we should also support the extraordinary costs that are not usually covered by provincial programs like the farm income stabilization insurance program.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Person, you mentioned eliminating the $3-million CAP, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, and bringing back the reference margin to 85%. I read your submission that you provided to this committee a few months ago. You talked about the RML and you talked about the CAP, but in that same document you also mentioned that it was your understanding that the rationale of the government for changing the AgriStability program was because of potential pressures. I think you quoted an OECD report about whether those programs were trade compliant and whether they were subsidizing profitability as opposed to potential loss.

If we were to eliminate the $3-million CAP and bring the reference margin back to 85%, in your experience and with your consultations, do you know whether that would be trade compliant, or would there be the potential of other countries bringing Canada to the WTO or some other body?

June 23rd, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agriculture, MNP LLP

Stuart Person

To clarify, we do want to remove the CAP and we want to remove the reference margin limit. We haven't made a comment on going to 85% on the trigger, but we're not against that. If that's what industry and government decide, that's great for producers.

The concern—and this is not clear to us, since we've heard conflicting reports from government and industry—is what the rules are around trade and whether, if you hit certain funding levels in your programs, you are violating WTO rules. That's one thing that needs to be worked out between producers and governments when they're thinking about the trigger point moving from 70% to 85%. Are we in violation of any world trade rules, and what would the ramifications be, both to agriculture and other industries, if we are in violation?

Again, we're not experts in that field. You would need to speak to a law firm or to your own government representatives to properly answer that question. It should be addressed.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay.

One of the issues I've heard often with farmers is the complexity of applying to AgriStability. Do you have any advice on trying to simplify that program?

I'm assuming one would be the admissibility of costs, in that certain costs are admissible and other costs are not admissible. Do you have any comments on that?

11:40 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agriculture, MNP LLP

Stuart Person

The administrations over the past number of years have made changes to make it easier for producers to apply. They are requesting less information than they did historically, when the program was first brought out. It was beneficial in some cases for producers to have to provide less information, but maybe it also contributed to more of the confusion around the program.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Person. Unfortunately, that's all the time we have.

Mr. Perron, you have six minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will continue with Mr. Person, following the lead of my colleague Mr. Drouin.

Mr. Person, I would like to let you complete your AgriStability proposals, since you said in your presentation that there are several things you did not address today.

11:45 a.m.

Senior Vice-President, Agriculture, MNP LLP

Stuart Person

Yes, correct. What would your question be, and are you looking for a list of those things?

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Yes, I am interested to hear what you are proposing. The witnesses we have heard from agree on the 85% threshold and on eliminating the reference margin. It is almost unanimous. We could talk about it again, but I believe that point has been made. However, you seemed to say you had other proposals to make. I am very interested in hearing them, and I feel it would be of great benefit to all committee members.