Evidence of meeting #9 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 meeting.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rick Bergmann  President of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council
René Roy  First Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council
Marcel Groleau  Chair, Union des producteurs agricoles
Michel Daigle  Chair of the Board of Directors, National Cattle Feeders' Association
Janice Tranberg  President and Chief Executive Officer, National Cattle Feeders' Association

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

No, I don't have numbers.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Okay.

In our previous meeting, we had the Canadian Cattlemen's Association appear before the committee. As you know very well, they are suffering because of the processing plants. They have been very centralized and they've been hit by COVID-19. Our thoughts are of course with the workers and the workers' safety, but we have a real problem coming up on the horizon. I'm glad to see there's a set-aside program, but the beef market is looking at a huge glut, especially when the fall calf season arrives.

One of the things the Canadian Cattlemen's Association was talking about was some kind of a nationwide price insurance in the western livestock insurance program. Can you please inform this committee of what your government's plans are in that regard?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

I had the opportunity to speak with the stakeholders in the sector very recently. We have to see what approach we can take in terms of regional programs versus what could be a national program. There are discussions under way. We are looking to see if there are any possibilities to look at it through the CAP, for example, through regional financial assistance to which the federal and the provincial governments could contribute.

These are things that we are looking at right now.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Okay. Specifically on price insurance, we heard testimony that the Maritimes don't have any such programs, so we're really looking for federal leadership.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

I understand, but I can't elaborate further now.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Okay.

In the little time I have left, Minister, we knew far before this crisis that the BRM programs were in sorry shape, and I think a little bit more of that has been exposed under the strain. I know some measures have been announced. Going forward, what kind of federal leadership are you going to be showing with respect to the provinces for long-term fixes to the BRM suite of programs?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Mr. MacGregor, we are actually out of time. I'm sorry about that. The minister might have a chance to plug it in somewhere else.

We will move to the second round for five minutes.

Mr. Lehoux, you have the floor for five minutes.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, Minister Bibeau. Thank you for joining us this afternoon.

You said at the start that $1.6 billion had been allocated to help producers. Can you tell me how much of that amount was allocated to the AgriStability program? Do you have that information on hand?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Yes, about $320 million out of the $1.6 billion in previous years, on average.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

I gather that the rest of the money goes to the other programs. Is that right?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Yes, the AgriInvest, AgriInsurance and AgriRecovery programs.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Okay.

Do you believe that the 75% improvement that you announced last week will make a significant difference and that it will help meet the sector's urgent needs at this time?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

The AgriStability program is meeting the demand. If needs arise, if producers have a bad year and if their margin drops by 30%, they can apply. The program used to allow for an advance payment of 50%, but it now allows for an advance payment of 75%. Producers can use the online calculator to see how much they're entitled to receive.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Minister Bibeau, you understand that this is a complex matter. The calculator may be very useful, but it doesn't send money to farmers the following week. We must remember that this crisis has been going on for almost two months and that people across Canada are on hiatus. The issues are piling up for our farmers.

I want to address the AgriRecovery program. Last week, you announced two $50-million packages, one for pork producers and one for beef producers. However, we're hearing that this money isn't currently available.

Minister Bibeau, as you know, the issues are affecting pork and beef producers right now. I'll provide a concrete example that concerns pork production in my constituency. Again last night, I spoke with producers. Hogs are being held in buildings because the processors can't meet the demand, given the physical distancing requirement that must be met in the plants where the meat is cut. This is causing a major issue. Some hogs are already 15 or 20 kilos heavier than the weight at which they would normally be slaughtered. The slaughter can't be delayed indefinitely. At this time, euthanasia is by no means out of the question. We mustn't forget that the piglets are already in the building. It's a matter of circumstances here.

What's your solution for producers, under these conditions?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

I note that there are three parts to your question, Mr. Lehoux.

I think there has been some confusion as to the timing of payment under the emergency processing fund. People are talking about the fall but that is really not the case at all. The expenditures must take place before fall. The criteria will be announced in the next few days. We will be able to pay out the money very quickly over the summer.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Minister, with all due respect, I want to point out that the summer will be too late, in my opinion. I visited a pork producer last week, and I can tell you that is not the way things are going in the industry. They are not going to be able to wait until the summer. Hogs are going to be euthanized.

How are you going to deal with that?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

There are several things. For the pork sector, we have allocated $50 million to help producers cover exceptional costs, precisely because they have to keep hogs longer, and that could go as far as welfare slaughter. We want to avoid that, of course.

There is also $77.5 million in assistance for food processors. These programs are available fairly quickly. The AgriRecovery program is administered by the provinces, which are as committed as we are to rolling it out very quickly. For processors, the criteria will be announced in the next few days and we will move very swiftly.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

I am going to come back to the issue of processing assistance because it is a really important industry. I have a plant in my constituency that employs 1,200 people. They have had to review the whole—

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Mr. Lehoux, unfortunately, your time is up.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Mrs. Bessette, you have the floor for five minutes.

May 12th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Chair, I will be sharing my time with Mr. Louis.

Madam Minister, thank you very much for being here today.

Thank you for the $252 million in assistance announced last week. I am already hearing positive feedback on the ground. This announcement is certainly timely, given current and projected needs in the agricultural sector.

The poultry industry is of great concern to me because my constituency is home to one of Quebec's largest farms. Some growers have told me they have to euthanize chicks. Given the higher price of grain and a slowdown in the processing sector, obviously our growers are going through difficult times.

How well will this first-ever Canadian program to buy unsold surplus food be put into operation, especially for poultry?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Right now, our teams are in the process of putting the two parties in contact. Some sectors have surplus to sell. We often talk of potatoes, but there is also poultry. Our teams are trying to find out what is available, in what format, in what packaging and in what region. They are meeting with people in the three areas of Canada that have concerns about their food security.

We want to connect sectors that have surpluses to sell with food bank networks. This program is not just about buying. It also provides assistance with logistics, transportation and the adjustment of certain packaging. We work with both sides to try to make a perfect match, if I may use that expression.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyne Bessette Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Thank you very much.

I am fortunate to have several horticultural producers in my constituency. Many are delighted with the expansion of AgriInsurance to include labour shortages as an eligible risk. This insurance program is the result of a collaborative effort between the provinces.

Where are you in discussions with the provinces on expanding the AgriInsurance program to address labour shortages?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

It is going well. As you know, we have given our approval. The decision needs to be made by both parties. The federal government supports this expansion, but the provinces are administering the program. In Quebec, it is the Financière agricole du Québec. Discussions are progressing well, but I must leave it to my provincial counterparts to announce whether or not they will join in.