Mr. Chair, I want to congratulate you on your new promotion. You are going to do a great job.
Since this is my first time to rise in the 39th Parliament, I want to thank the great people of Selkirk--Interlake for putting their faith in me one more time.
Agriculture is extremely important to my riding. There are over 5,000 farm families in Selkirk--Interlake. I understand this agriculture crisis all too well. I am a farmer. My parents are farmers. My brothers and their families are farmers. I hope that my children will have a career in farming as well. My daughters are very passionate about agriculture and are thinking about studying agriculture and coming back to the family farm. I want to make sure they have that opportunity. The way things were going under the Liberal government, I was not sure that was going to happen. Now I see there is some hope for the future because the new Conservative government is bringing in policies that mean there will be a long term, prosperous outlook.
Since I was elected in 2004, it has been a familiar occurrence in this place to have late night debates on the future of agriculture and the issues facing us, such as BSE, agriculture income, avian flu, and the list just seems to go on and on. We know there is a problem, but finally we have a Minister of Agriculture who has taken the time to be here with us all night. He is a minister who understands the problems and is going to bring in policies and the changes to make sure that we do have that prosperous, long term outlook.
I also want to thank the Prime Minister who took the time to be here and address the committee, to talk about the problem of agriculture and his vision of agriculture, where we need to be going down the road to make sure that there is long term sustainability. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture have been very open to talking with members of the caucus, to sitting down with the parliamentary secretaries, with the ag committee members and with members from caucus here who have a great deal of knowledge in agriculture. They have been talking about the future, the problems and the possible solutions that we can bring forward.
We have heard a lot tonight about the farm safety net programs that are in place today. Farmers in Selkirk--Interlake and across Manitoba and Canada absolutely hate the CAIS program. It has not worked. The only people I get phone calls from who seem to enjoy it are the accountants. It is way too complicated. We have to move forward and find a new program that is a lot easier to administrate, that can be done at the farm and that is a lot more responsive to the needs of farmers.
This government has responded very quickly. There was money that had been budgeted by the last Liberal government, but for whatever reason it had not been sent out. Finally when we came power, that three-quarters of a billion dollars was sent out to farmers in an expeditious manner. It is getting out there right now as we speak. Another $500 million per year over the next five years will also be going out to ease the pain on the family farms, but there is no doubt that that still is not be enough. We have to look at other ways to restructure the industry.
The biofuel strategy is one which a lot of us are getting excited about. There are great opportunities in the biofuel industries. We need to use those competitive advantages. We know that the WTO is important. We have to have a successful negotiation if we are going to address the needs of agriculture. We have to have a balanced approach that takes into consideration the protection of our supply managed industries but also makes sure that we free up markets for the other 80% of agriculture in this country. Ninety per cent of farmers in Canada are dependent upon grains and oilseeds and the markets for beef and pork. They need a world global market. We have to address that.
This government will address those issues. We are going to make sure that the regulatory impediments are removed so that we continue to advance the agriculture industry. I look forward to the future as the new government and the great new Minister of Agriculture move forward in addressing the problems facing our farm families.
Mr. Chair, I would ask for the consent of the House to waive my question time so that my colleague from Leeds--Grenville could have a chance to speak on issues facing the farmers in his area of Ontario.