Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. The motion proposes that the government take action to make a number of amendments to the Income Tax Act to support the transfer of family farms from one generation to another and facilitate retirement savings by farmers.
In addition, the motion asks the government to take action to transfer a recurring envelope of funds to the Government of Quebec and other provinces to encourage young people to take up farming.
Let me begin by commending the member for her efforts on this file. She has undertaken extensive consultations with various stakeholders in the industry with the goal of improving the lives of farmers and encouraging future generations to enter into farms. She has also demonstrated a spirit of cooperation by agreeing to meet with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance in an effort to better understand the Government of Canada's position and the policy implications for her proposals. The member should be applauded for what she is trying to accomplish.
That being said, while I and all members of the House share the hon. member of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant's goal of supporting family farms in Canada, I cannot support the motion. The hon. members of the House should also reject the motion because the Government of Canada already provides significant assistance to farmers, including assistance to facilitate the intergenerational transfer of farms as well as the federal-provincial-territorial cost shared program that delivers the major component of government support for agriculture. This substantial support for farmers, delivered by the Government of Canada, the provinces and the territories, explains why these measures are unnecessary.
Support for agriculture comes in three different types of measures: tax measures, loan support measures and direct support programs. Today, I would like to outline the scope of existing Government of Canada direct support for farmers for the hon. members of the House.
I am confident that when hon. members understand the extent of these existing programs, they will concur that they also cannot support the motion. With all the provinces and territories as full partners, a recurring envelope of funds already exists for cost shared programs that provide support for farm families and beginning farmers through programs under the agricultural policy framework, the APF. The APF is a multi-billion dollar, multi-year program.
Under the APF, the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program provides protection for farmers in need based on the decline in their production margin which is their farm income minus eligible expenses. Beginning farmer margins are also being used to provide support to farmers who do not have a financial history. This means that beginning farmers can access income stabilization and disaster coverage under this program at the start of their careers.
Another component of the APF is the renewal program. It is one of the major programs that the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories, uses to support farmers and to ensure that young people, especially young people from farm families, are able to get started in farming.
The APF's renewal component offers a suite of programs to provide farmers with business advisory and skills development services that are available for new or beginning farmers. These programs include: the Canadian farm business advisory services, the planning and assessment for value added enterprises program, and the Canadian agricultural skills services which has been launched in two provinces and will be available across Canada during 2005.
The Canadian farm business advisory services, CFBAS, provide eligible producers with access to financial consultants to help them set goals for their business and to develop plans to meet these goals. The farm business assessment component of this service consists of the development of a farm financial assessment and action plan. The service, valued at up to $2,000, is available to producers for a $100 consultant fee. In the program, established producers receive a one day follow up to assist in their progress while beginning farmers receive up to three days of follow up.
The Specialized Business Planning Services, another component of the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services, provides participating producers with specialized business plans in areas such as diversification, marketing, human resources, expansion, risk management or succession. It provides up to $8,000 in matching funds to an individual producer.
In addition, Planning and Assessment for Value-Added Enterprises provides up to $10,000 in matching funds to an individual producer to develop a comprehensive business plan for establishing or expanding a value-added enterprise.
Finally, the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service provides assistance to producers and their spouse for a skills assessment, development of an individual learning plan and financial assistance to access training.
While only established producers with a net family income of under $45,000 are eligible for training benefits, all beginning farmers, regardless of income, will receive a skills assessment and an individual learning plan.
These programs are strong evidence that the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories are already working together and will continue to work together to ensure appropriate levels of support for family farms and to encourage young people to go into farming, in particular, through the existing joint federal-provincial-territorial agricultural policy framework.
Farm policy is a matter of profound importance to this government and to Canadians in general. The hon. member for Châteauguay--Saint-Constant's motion has provided an excellent opportunity to consider the excellent existing support that the Government of Canada, along with its provincial and territorial colleagues, provides to the vital farming sector.
When hon. members of the House consider that all measures in support of farmers, whether tax measures or spending programs, are paid for with tax dollars of other hard-working Canadians, I am sure they will recognize that not every measure can be supported.
I am also sure that when hon. members consider these comprehensive programs that I have just described and consider as well the existing tax measures and loan support programs, which I did not have the opportunity to describe in detail today, it will be clear to them that adding new tax and program measures to the generous support that is already available to Canadian farmers is not something that the House should endorse at this time.