Mr. Speaker, while I am pleased to have this opportunity to include my comments during this emergency debate, it is unfortunate that this debate is even necessary.
We must change the mindset that exists in some quarters of official Ottawa, which may see agriculture as some outdated sector of our economy and may suggest that better management on our farms might solve all today's problems. Trust me: management of our farms is not the problem.
We are asking our farmers to confront and challenge the highly competitive export market while being tackled by subsidies in the U.S. and the European Union. Farmers need a level playing field to continue in the industry. For example, let me share with the House this evening an income statement from a local farmer, as of December 31, 2000. He owns and rents about 600 acres. His nitrogen costs were about $250 per tonne, a 67% increase from 1999. As of January 31, 2001, the cost is $350 per tonne, a 40% increase in one month. His diesel fuel increased 42% in one year. His income was just under $186,000 and his expenses were just slightly over $242,000. His net income is thus a negative $55,300.
At this point I should mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. Minister of Natural Resources.
How long can we expect this farmer to continue? This financial predicament has nothing to do with bad farming practices but everything to do with matters outside his or her control, such as high input costs and low commodity prices.
I hope that the decision makers are listening, because what is happening on our farms is not due to bad management or outdated ideas. We have survived thus far, due in large measure to good management and meeting the challenges of ever changing times. As a farmer in my life before politics I know well of the trials and tribulations. We cannot control the weather any more than we wish we could control the U.S. congress or France's financial backing of its agriculture sector.
There are many issues, one being subsidies, that our government is addressing on the global stage. Those matters are important and vital to the long term survival of our highly diversified farms.
I hear from farmers and their organizations every day. In rural Canada we are independent and self-sufficient. Demonstrations, blocking of traffic and rallies to highlight food freedom day are not the first objectives of farmers, but the frustration has grown rapidly.
Last summer several meetings were hosted by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for farmers to talk about their circumstances to their provincial and federal elected members. One of the largest meetings was held in my riding, which is home to many farm leaders such as Ontario corn producers, soybean growers, asparagus growers and Ontario wheat producers, and the list goes on.
We know that the employment and sale expenditure multipliers indicate that for every job in agriculture there are an additional 1.28 jobs outside agriculture, and for each dollar in sales in agriculture, there is $1.57 in sales in agriculture related businesses.
When farmers are in financial difficulty the ripple effect is felt across all sectors of the economy, especially in our rural communities. Agriculture is big business. It is an original life science. This sector is continuously evolving and adapting in order to achieve goals and meet new challenges identified by science, trade and societal demands. Food production has become more efficient. Farmers have increased crop diversification, and agriculture's impact on the environment has gained much significance, especially in recent years.
To maintain Canada's high standard of agricultural production, the industry requires investment. Strengthening the agriculture and agrifood industry will serve to benefit all Canadians by providing safe and affordable food, greater employment, new uses for non-food products and a greener environment. We must secure conditions for success by improving farm income supports, lessening the tax burden on our farmers, improving research and development and investing in sustainable agriculture.
A vision for the future of agriculture has been laid out but the path to get there is still uncertain. Some progress has been made and too often that gets lost in the rush by others to criticize and condemn. I congratulate our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for working with the provinces on the new $5.5 billion three year national safety net agreement. It is part of our 85% increase in farm support since 1995 while the Ontario government, for example, continues to spend less.
The new safety net agreement followed many months of intense discussion. It was not easy. The prairie provinces felt they should be treated differently from Ontario, while the Ontario government was pushing for its fair share of the nationally allocated safety net dollars. Ontario received an additional $32 million per year as a result of those positive changes.
I believe we now have the appropriate programs in place, but we must enhance that with additional funding. It is essential to point out that the provinces do have a role to play here as well. They are quick to denounce and, in Ontario's case, slow to support.
The intent of safety nets is to set a solid foundation for a complementary package of programs to address a variety of farm income problems resulting from such factors as fluctuating prices, poor weather and foreign subsidies, but we must now look at doing more. Commodity prices are at historically low levels. For some products, prices will stay low for both the short and the long term. Foreign subsidies are not coming down. Farm input costs, including fuel and fertilizer costs, are not going down. Together they account for about $3.8 billion, or 13% of total input expenses.
We have enhanced NISA by allowing participants easier access to their accounts, and the federal government contributes at twice the rate of the provincial governments. We have renewed crop insurance. We have extended and enhanced the market revenue insurance program, which is expected to pay out more than $200 million for 2000.
Farmers often need access to credit to help them get their crops planted in the spring. That is why in April 2000 we launched the spring credit advance program, worth $52 million to 3,000 Ontario farmers.
We also know that farmers have bills to pay in the fall, often before they want to market their crops, so we continue to provide fall cash advance programs through the advanced payments program, through which the federal government pays the interest on the first $50,000 of an advance issued to a producer. About 4,000 Ontario farmers have been in the program over the past three years, saving over $6 million in interest.
National and provincial farm groups are suggesting adding $300 million to farm safety nets to address the crisis in the grains and oilseeds sector in particular, with 60% from the federal government and 40% from the province. This would help level the playing field.
We need to make certain that Canadian food continues to be produced at a reasonable price and at a fair return to our primary producers. Our nation is a success with a strong and viable agriculture industry. Let us all work together to ensure that agriculture remains a success within Canada. We can, and we must, do more.