Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debate today. This debate is one that is very vital to the agricultural industry of this nation.
It is not just by accident that Canada ranks as one of the world's largest economies and is doing business in a very positive way throughout the world. Our success is the result of the efforts of the Canadian government, the provinces and the Canadian people all working together. Those joint efforts have made Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector an important and dynamic part of the world economy.
This same model of partnership prevails in the agricultural sector. Producers work closely with the provinces and the federal government to set directions for today's programs, those in the past and those in the future.
The federal government is providing many ways so that all regions of Canada can work in the agriculture sector. The Government of Canada works hard to balance the needs of regions and the sectors, providing support for each and every area of the country. Federal investment fosters the growth of the sector by encouraging the development of our export markets, our food supply and in developing new innovative food products. A healthy dynamic agricultural economy means jobs for Canadians.
Past federal investment in the sector tended to be governed by specific crops or market failures. Thanks to the combined efforts of farmers, provincial governments and the federal government, the farm income production system we currently have takes into account both the different needs of individual farmers and the agricultural economy as it varies across this country. The safety net agreements that we have in place result in a more market driven program. They also provide inevitable and reasonable support for commodities, producers and provinces.
It is this system of safety nets that will help stabilize incomes and reduce the need for ad hoc assistance. All provinces enjoy substantial advantages in being part of the Canadian federation especially when it comes to the agriculture and agri-food sector. While it is not easy to put dollar figures on many of these national advantages, they are every bit as valuable as federal support that goes directly to individual farmers.
By working co-operatively with provincial government partners and with our clients, the Government of Canada will ensure that the advantages of federalism continue to be fully exploited to the benefit of all Canadians.
As mentioned by my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, we do have the tools in place for farmers. We spent the better part of a decade working closely with farm leaders and our provincial colleagues to put in place an effective system of farm income.
Mr. Speaker, I should have noted at the beginning that I am splitting my time with my colleague from Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant.
Under the current safety net system, we have three components: crop insurance, the net income stabilization account, and province specific companion programs. Those tools are funded partially by farmers but a large chunk, $1 billion, comes from governments. Each and every year the federal government puts $600 million and the provinces put $400 million into that program.
In this calendar year alone, the national crop insurance program which is offered to Canadian farmers at low or no cost will provide farmers with an estimated $430 million in direct payments. The program has a participation rate of 55% to 60% nationally.
At this point I would like to take the opportunity to speak about the third component of the Canadian farm safety net system, the province specific companion programs. While crop insurance and NISA are national in scope, the $200 million in federal money devoted to companion programming supports initiatives specific to a province based on the needs and make-up of that particular province's farm sector.
The companion programs that have been put in place are generally of six types: additional producer and government contributions to enhance the NISA program; enhancements to existing crop insurance programs; whole farm income disaster programs providing government assistance to those who have major income shortfalls for reasons beyond the farmer's control; adaptation and development programs to strengthen the overall competitiveness of the farm sector; residual price support programs, available in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia; and the experimental programs, such as self-directed risk management in Ontario.
These companion programs have been very positive. They allow different provinces to experiment with new programs that lead to better production for farmers. For instance, the income based disaster programs run by British Columbia, Alberta and P.E.I. have proven so popular and effective that the national safety nets advisory committee is exploring the possibility of a national program based on similar principles. It is part of the long term review process mentioned earlier by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. I want to emphasize that no decisions have been made to this date, although I am sure it will be one of the things that comes up in tomorrow's discussions with farm leaders.
As many members know by now, the minister has called a meeting in Ottawa to discuss with our partners in the safety net system what producers are requiring, where producers see the government could provide support. The minister has also invited the provincial ministers of agriculture to deal with the current situations that are faced by our agriculture sector.
I do want to assure members of the House that the federal government is not about to implement a unilateral program within the safety net system that does not have the support of all producers and provinces throughout this country.
To conclude, the Government of Canada's approach to safety nets is a true reflection of Canada's strong federal-provincial-producer partnership in ensuring the future of Canadian agriculture. I am quite certain that the meeting tomorrow will produce outcomes that will be beneficial to those farmers who are presently feeling a great deal of difficulty. The minister will work with the provincial ministers to ensure that our goals meet the needs of the farmers, the provinces and the federal government.