Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
I commend the minister of agriculture for the work he is doing to improve the prospect of the Canadian farmer. My riding of Oxford has a large variety of agricultural production. The north end of the riding is dominated by livestock, mostly dairy. Just north of Woodstock is the Western Ontario Breeders Incorporated which collects, tests, stores and sells semen around the world for the artificial insemination of cattle. Toward the south end of the riding, we have a predominance of tobacco production. Over the past decade as tobacco has decreased, these producers have looked for alternative crops to grow on the sandy soil of the tobacco belt.
We have found that not many crops are successfully grown in this soil. As one moves throughout tobacco areas, one can see the occasional farm growing ginseng or peanuts. However not all farmers can afford to make this change, nor can we have these markets flooded by new producers.
Another experimental crop which was successfully introduced this year on a limited acreage by Mr. Joe Strobel of Tillsonburg was hemp. This crop was harvested last month and will be used in the production of hemp clothing.
This is why this bill is important to my region. The provisions in the bill for research and development of new crops is good for all Canadian farmers. It is hoped that this research may even develop a new wheat or barley variety that could be successfully grown on lighter land such as that formerly used for tobacco.
We sometimes forget just how competitive the agricultural industry is world wide. With our shorter growing season in Canada, we must take full advantage of improvements in crop and livestock variety and quality in order to finish ahead of the competition.
If research can develop new and better crops that can be used for human and livestock consumption, then we can forge new markets around the world. These new markets will not only develop income for our farmers but will generate employment throughout Canada.
As this country has moved from a primarily agrarian economy to our present industrial and information age economy, we sometimes forget how important agriculture continues to be not only for the food it produces but for the jobs it creates. Jobs in our transportation networks, packing plants and food processing plants are all dependent on agriculture.
As every farmer knows, the greatest resource we have is the land. This land is a farmer's capital. It is our basic resource and our goal has to be to preserve the land and to make it as productive as possible. The research that is called for in this bill is good for all Canadian farmers.
I would like to address a few remarks to my hon. friends from Lethbridge and Peace River. I had the pleasure last week to sit with the advisory committee of the Canadian Wheat Board. This is an elected body of grain farmers from the various regions of the grain provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
To a man these elected representatives supported the Canadian Wheat Board largely because of its success in marketing our grain and because of its pooled selling. There was some discussion about the possibility of some entrepreneurial ventures regarding barley. I am sure that will be discussed by the board. There are farmers elected who give input to this board. I was pleased to meet with them and to know that they were satisfied with what was being done.
When the bill becomes law we will be able to say to our farmers that we have passed a law that will improve the ability of the Canadian farmer to compete in international markets. This is a strong step forward for Canadian farmers and the Canadian agri-food industry as a whole.