Evidence of meeting #8 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 covid-19.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claire Citeau  Executive Director, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance
Kathleen Sullivan  Chief Executive Officer, Food and Beverage Canada
James Donaldson  Member of the Board of Directors, Food and Beverage Canada
Mary Robinson  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Scott Ross  Assistant Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Sylvie Cloutier  Chief Executive Officer, Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec
Jason McLinton  Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada
Bob Lowe  President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Tyler Fulton  Director, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Dimitri Fraeys  Vice-President, Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec
Fawn Jackson  Director, International and Government Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

4 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

I mean, we would not be averse to donating beef to where it would need to be, but it's the processing side of it. A live cow doesn't do a food bank any good at all. We need to get that animal processed. That's the problem we're having right now. The processing part of it is the bottleneck.

4 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Going forward into the future, we want to be able to withstand future shocks like this. We have exposed how vulnerable our meat processing sector is with 75% of our processing capacity in one province. We can see what happens when one plant shuts down for a week.

In your opinion, how do we mitigate that in the future? Do we need to find a way to encourage a more decentralized model so that farmers have options and we're not creating this kind of backlog? I'm just looking for how we establish resiliency in the future.

4 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

We are too. We aren't ready to give it up. The big monster processing facility, not only in cattle but in every other form of agriculture, leads to efficiencies that enable the price in the grocery store for our food to be pretty reasonable for pretty good stuff. I'll talk about beef, because that's what I'm familiar with. If we split the processing and made a lot more smaller plants, we'd lose the efficiency, which in turn would drop the price I got for my cattle and raise the price of food in grocery stores.

I think we're all going to learn from this. We're all going to go through it together. That includes the processors. They're doing stuff within those plants now; I mean, they're superinnovators. They want to process cattle, and they're making it pretty much.... You never know, but in another pandemic we'd be a lot more prepared, under the same system, than we were this time.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

In the last Parliament, our committee toured the Cargill plant in Ontario. They're quite the operation to look at.

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

Yes, they are.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you very much.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. MacGregor.

The final five minutes go to Francis Drouin.

Go ahead, Francis.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I didn't know I was going to get five minutes.

Thank you.

First, to the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, you outlined a couple of asks. The first ask is also asking for the provinces' participation. I know that the Government of Alberta made a recent announcement.

Let it be clear: I want to congratulate the Government of Alberta and Premier Kenney—a Liberal can say this—for joining in on this.

Have other provinces jumped on board yet, or are we still waiting for that particular program?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

As far as I know, we're still waiting for the other provinces to jump on board. I think Alberta was the first one out of the gate.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

As well, how will this particular program help your beef producers? We'll get to your other asks, but first, how will that help them?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

It will help with paying when.... We have cattle in my feedlot right now that should have been processed a month ago. They get to a certain weight, and if they can't get marketed, we still have to feed them. I mean, cattle have a shelf life. You still have to keep feeding them. Meanwhile, the price is going down and the feed cost is staying relatively the same. It's an additional cost that's fairly significant. That's where the set-aside program will help. It will help pay for the extra feed that's going into those cattle.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, that was....

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Yes. I have just been told that it was an extra question.

I'm sorry, Mr. Drouin. I have too many things going on here. I had you on the list, but effectively the round ended with Alistair MacGregor.

We have to close the questions on this panel.

I want to thank the Conseil de la transformation—

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.

Because we missed the Cattlemen's Association and we were not able to question them, is it possible for us to have a few questions?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I'll give you two minutes, Mr. Soroka. Are you all right with that?

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Soroka Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I'll pass this on to Mr. Barlow.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Thanks.

It's really just one question for the Cattlemen's Association. Thanks for giving us the time, Mr. Chair.

You talked about the existing $50 million through a program that's not new. AgriRecovery has been there every year, but the $50 million, you said, Bob, is already gone. What is needed to get the cattle industry through this in terms of the budget for a set-aside program?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Bob Lowe

If I can turn this over to Fawn, she'll be more familiar with the numbers than I am.

May 8th, 2020 / 4:05 p.m.

Fawn Jackson Director, International and Government Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Sure. On the set-aside we estimated and did a range from $35 million to $135 million, but we think we're probably going to be closer to the $135 million. Then, on the livestock price insurance, we've also estimated a cost of around $165 million.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Okay. This ends our second panel.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Chair, I have a comment and a point of order.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Go ahead, Mr. Perron.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Internet is causing a delay in the interpretation. When I asked the Canadian Cattlemen's Association representatives a question earlier, they didn't have time to finish their answer.

You gave Mr. Drouin extra time. While that's very kind of you, it doesn't seem very fair. Since the Conservative members got more time, I think you should do the same for Mr. Lowe so he can finish answering the question about the reciprocity of standards.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I already gave you an extra 30 seconds, Mr. Perron.

Mr. Lowe, can you quickly finish on the question you had from Mr. Perron?