Mr. Speaker, I am using the last half of my friend's time. I wanted to make sure that the debate included Haliburton—Victoria—Brock. If I combine my riding with the neighbouring riding of Hastings—Frontenac, they together comprise a third of the land in southern Ontario.
My riding is a rural riding in Ontario, with 24 Santa Claus parades, 18 cenotaph services and many other such things that happen in rural ridings. When visiting its 44 municipalities I realize that I am dealing with small groups of agriculture based people.
It is the same in your riding, Mr. Speaker, which is a big farm community. There was a rally in your riding the other day, and I thank you for attending it. Some farmers from my riding were there to make the point that there was a crisis in certain sectors of agriculture today. More than one sector of agriculture is affected because today's problems in one sector are tomorrow's problems in another.
There are 27 commodity groups in Ontario. I have been trying to encourage farm groups to get together as one voice and not as segregated groups trying to accomplish things for their own sectors.
I work with farm groups. I realize they are very proud people. They are not looking for a handout. They are looking to work on a level playing field, as the saying goes, and to be able to compete globally.
Canada has some of the most efficient farmers in the world. My riding has a lot of agricultural groups that work through the supply management system. There are over 400 working dairy farms in my riding. When I approach farmers with items of concern, when I bring some of the chief negotiators into the riding to work with them to find ways to be more productive, the meetings tend to be very big.
Before this debate I attended a meeting with the Minister of Finance. I wanted to make sure he knew exactly what the problems were, what the numbers were and what we were asking for. I wanted also to be assured he had those numbers when he went to cabinet along with the minister of agriculture, so that they knew exactly what it would take for the 60 days between now and planting season. After planting season, farm people must look at what they will get for their crops in the end.
This is not a quick fix to get the seed in the ground. It is required in order to get a good price for the product. That is the systemic problem in Ontario and other provinces at this time.
This afternoon we met with the members for Malpeque, Essex, Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Leeds—Grenville, Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Elgin—Middlesex—London and the member for Etobicoke North, who does not have any farms there. He is parliamentary secretary and we thought we should have him.
As we dealt with it, talked about it and laid out the numbers, we saw that it was a whole farm problem. It is not just one commodity group, although at this time grains and oilseeds are having problems and are at the forefront. Other sectors could be affected because Canada's food production is under attack from the world. If we allow ourselves to be taken over, if we allow the marketplace to be the only force that decides, we will not have family farms. We must deal with the issue.
I compliment some of the people in my riding: Ed Bragshaw, Bruce Webster, Joe Hickson and Bill Holland. They have held rallies. They have presented petitions. They have had phone campaigns. They are addressing the problem in a way that is very important to them and to me. They bring their voices forward to be heard.
I also compliment the member for Toronto—Danforth, who is a leader in promotion and a tremendous thinker when it comes to things like the farm aid show. There are no farms in his riding, but he is looking at being the voice for bringing farmers together. He is trying to make some type of promotional hook, and he knows today's problem with grains and oilseeds is tomorrow's problem for other sectors of agriculture.
A farm organization gets six cents worth of product in a box of cereal while a dollar on that box goes to a hockey player. I have nothing against hockey players. I know your son is in the NHL, Mr. Speaker. I am glad he is getting a dollar from a box of cereal. The point is that if a farmer gets six cents for the cereal while a golfer gets a dollar for his picture on the box, there is obviously something wrong with the way we do business in agriculture.
Our parties here tonight are close to short term solutions but the long term problems will still exist. An instant infusion of cash does not help the systemic problems. Another compounding issue is that on very successful farms the average age of a farmer is 57 or 58 years old. The younger generation is being discouraged from farming because of the problems in the marketplace.
In the short term I compliment the agricultural community for putting its voices together and bringing the problem to the forefront. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing the debate to continue. I compliment the member for Brandon—Souris for bringing the problem to the House.
I ask the House to continue to debate our food system, not just grains and oilseeds but the whole farm problem, the whole food system, and the safety of our food which is uppermost in our minds. I think this problem is the tip of the iceberg for what is going on in agriculture today. We must address it very aggressively.
The House has to take a proactive stand to make sure farmers are protected and that they get a decent return for what they produce. The input costs have to be taken into consideration for the price of the end product.
I hope the House will continue to address the whole farm problem and not just the one segment before us tonight.