Evidence of meeting #6 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 programs.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chris Forbes  Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Christine Walker  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Colleen Barnes  Vice-President, Policy and Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

5:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Christine Walker

When we do have surplus property, we look to sell it. Then we take the funding that we receive from those sales and reinvest it in our research centres and in the infrastructure.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Okay.

How much time do I have left?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

You have 30 or 35 seconds.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

I was going to give that to Mr. Drouin. I think he had a question.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Not in 30 seconds. It's not worth it.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

That's good, then. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you.

Now we have Mr. Barlow.

You have five minutes, please.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Thank you.

Just to go back to what we were talking about, Mr. Forbes, I know that in 2017 when we had the minister here, we talked about some of these trade issues. At that time, we had 34 agriculture trade experts in our consulates around the world. They weren't foreign affairs people but agriculture people, and I know that you know how important that is.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

We were having some issues taking advantage of CETA, and now with the CPTPP. Is that number still fairly consistent or do we need to increase resources in some of those areas?

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

We have increased a bit. I'm sorry I don't have the numbers with me—

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

That's okay.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

—but we have increased somewhat over the last couple of years. There was some money in the 2018 fall economic statement that we used to beef that up. I think six or seven would be my rough estimate of the numbers, but it's in that range, and I think, overall, beefing up the trade commissioner service more broadly.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

We have had some issues from the cattle sector specifically. I know this is for the CFIA, but I am just going to ask if you have some information on that.

A few weeks ago, the minister announced that there would be a two-year moratorium on the transition to the new transportation regulations. There seems to be some real confusion on whether this is really a moratorium or a transition. Some of the producers that we have across the country have started to contact us, saying, “I thought this was a moratorium, but now I'm getting dinged with some of these new rules. What's going on?”

I'm just curious. Are there some aspects of the new transportation rules that are being enforced now and some that are not? Is there going to be a bit of a campaign out there to—

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

May I bring a colleague from the CFIA to the table? Is that fair?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

That's perfect.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

This is Colleen Barnes from CFIA.

5:10 p.m.

Colleen Barnes Vice-President, Policy and Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair.

The transition is the feed, water and rest time.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Yes.

5:10 p.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Colleen Barnes

It's that part of the regs that we're sort of going to focus on—compliance, promotion, education and awareness building for the first two years. The rest of it does come into force but as a general principle.

We're working with the cattle industry and the other sectors as well. If they're hearing noise, if there are concerns, they should let us know. We have working groups on all the sectors to deal with the issues.

It is a big change. We want to make sure we're working together so that it works for everybody. There are parts of the regs that are now in force. We're trying to make sure there are good lines of communication open.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

That's good to know. There's kind of an awareness campaign out there. Maybe it was lost in translation, but the announcement was a moratorium on these transportation regs for two years. You can see why maybe...but that's good to hear.

Mr. Forbes, we've talked about COVID-19, so the timing may be good. The agri-recovery program is there as well. This is supposed to be a pool of money set aside for natural disasters. Our producers have started to call this the harvest from hell. There's the carbon tax, the illegal blockades, the railway strikes. It's hard to describe more of a disaster than this year has been.

Is there any flexibility, let's say, in terms of expanding the scope of agri-recovery?

I know my colleagues have mentioned a pool of money to deal with COVID-19. That's really the essence of what agri-recovery is supposed to be. Are there any discussions going on to expand the definition or the accessibility, let's say, for agri-recovery to address some of these issues?

5:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I think that when we look at the suite, as the minister said, we look at the whole suite. Certainly, agri-recovery and the role it plays is part of the framework we have.

We're certainly open to ideas. We talk to the provinces about it, but certainly if there are ideas from the committee around how we might improve that as a group of federal and provincial officials, we certainly are trying to find ways to make the system as responsive and effective as possible.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Great.

Yes, with everything that's going on, it could be something we could access really quickly to address some of these issues.

5:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

March 12th, 2020 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

The last question I have for you, Mr. Forbes, is just on some of these other issues that we are facing.

We talked about some of the transportation issues and the trade. There's been a lot of talk about changing AgriStability. A lot of producers have been asking to increase that from 70% to 85%, but unless we can get the provinces to agree with that, it's not going to happen.

Has the landscape, now, with a lot of these issues that we're facing.... Is that the reason we've had such a push to ask for that increase to 85%?

You talked about about a pretty good six or seven years there. Now things have changed substantially.