Thank you, committee members, for this opportunity to appear before you today.
My name is Blair Rutter. I am the Executive Director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, one of 14 organizations that belong to Grain Growers of Canada. I'm here today representing the Grain Growers whose members represent tens of thousands of successful farmers from coast to coast. When the budget was introduced earlier this year, the Grain Growers were pleased to see that expanding trade remained a high priority. Improving access to markets is vital to ensuring growth and prosperity in our sector.
The implementation of marketing freedom for wheat and barley will also grow the profitability of our sector. We are eagerly anticipating an open market on August 1. This move has already sparked private investment in further value-added grain processing and research. The open market success of our canola, pulse, and oat industries gives us reason to be optimistic that we will see similar success stories in wheat and barley.
Grain Growers supports the budget provision that extends the deferred payment tax provision to all Canadian farmers, not only those in the Canadian Wheat Board area. This provision allows farmers a modest ability to smooth out the year-to-year fluctuations in their incomes.
The Grain Growers were also pleased to see the modernization of food safety regulations at CFIA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada. We support efforts to reduce regulations and simplify the process by which new products can come to market. We encourage you to continue down this path, especially with respect to the registration of new crop varieties.
To take full advantage of the increased opportunities in agriculture, we ask your committee to address the following issues.
First, we need to continue our emphasis on research and innovation. We were disappointed in some of the cutbacks to agriculture announced in the budget. While we support the change in focus toward early-stage variety development, the 10% cut in core funding of agriculture did affect some front-line research positions. If costs are to be trimmed, it should be in administration and not research staff. In particular, the Grain Growers are concerned that the program relating to important spray technology might be eliminated. This valuable research has reduced farmer input costs and improved our stewardship of the environment. We ask your committee to ensure that funding for this program remains in place.
Second, our sector is dependent on a reliable rail transportation sector. We urge all parliamentarians to support back-to-work legislation and restore rail service so that farmers do not bear the cost of lost sales and ships in harbours waiting for grain. We also ask the government to introduce legislation this fall that will address long-standing rail service issues.
Finally, the Grain Growers are seeking the modernization of the Canada Grain Act. The budget makes a special allotment for continued funding of the Canadian Grain Commission at present levels, and we thank the government for this stopgap measure. Making some of its services optional and allowing third-party service providers will lower costs to farmers and ensure the commission is well positioned to meet the future needs of our industry.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to share our views.