Mr. Speaker, before question period we were talking about issues that were going to have to take place during transition. The first was on the Canadian Wheat Board's access. The second was on producer cars.
I had just indicated the third where these changes would not change the Canadian Grain Commission's role in assuring the world-renowned quality of Canada's grain. The Canadian Grain Commission will continue to provide its services regardless of who is marketing the grain.
Fourth, on the issue of the future funding of wheat and barley research and market development, a deduction from producers' sales will be established to continue the same level of funding by farmers to these activities. These funds will support the great work that is being done by the Western Grains Research Foundation, the Canadian International Grains Institute and the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre.
The deduction will be mandated by government for the transition period. In the meantime, we are discussing with industry a long-term mechanism to support research and market development in order to keep our great industry moving forward.
As Keith Degenhardt, chairman of the Western Grains Research Foundation, wrote to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, “The Canadian Wheat Board method of collecting the check-off is certainly not the only method of collecting wheat and barley check-offs”.
Many have expressed concerns about the future of the port of Churchill which depends upon Canadian Wheat Board shipments for the majority of its business. Our government knows how important the port of Churchill is to the strength and growth of our northern economy. The port is part of the government's overall northern strategy, setting out a vibrant vision for the north and it will remain the Prairies' Arctic gateway to the world.
Over the past four years, we have invested close to $40 million, $37.4 million to be exact, to improve the port's facilities, including rail and air access. We are backing up that commitment with a concrete plan to support a strong future for the port following the introduction of marketing freedom for western grain and barley growers.
As the first phase, we are investing federal funds to provide timely support for Churchill. For the second phase, once we know better the impact of marketing freedom on the port, we will decide what new initiatives will be needed to drive a bright future for the port. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to explore new opportunities for this vital northern asset.
We are also very encouraged by the willingness and positive outlook of owners OmniTRAX, the largest privately held rail service in North America, to sit down with us to develop a business plan and chart a way forward for Canada's only major northern seaport.
As for grain industry jobs, while we will see some job losses at the Canadian Wheat Board initially, we expect private grain marketers and processors to expand and start up new businesses in Canada. In fact, Milton Boyd, a professor and economist at the University of Manitoba, believes, “Just as creation of the Board in the 1930s shifted some jobs away from the private grain firms, removal of the board's monopoly in 2012 would shift some jobs back to the private grain firms.”
Milling firms will be able to purchase directly from the farmer of their choice at whatever price they negotiate. Entrepreneurs will have the option of starting up their own small specialty flour mills, malting and pasta plants.
As Brian Otto, president of the Western Barley Growers Association, said, “Canadian millers will have the opportunity to develop niche contracting programs to satisfy needs for specific traits”. He also believes, “Minor classes of wheat will find new, robust markets that were ignored under the single desk because they were too small”.
The future of our agriculture industry is bright. We have seen tremendous growth in value-added opportunities for oats, pulses and canola across the Prairies over the past 20 years. We will see these same opportunities open up for wheat and barley as we implement marketing freedom, just as we saw in Saskatchewan a few weeks ago.
We will work with farmers and industry to attract investment, encourage innovation, create value-added jobs and build a stronger economy. By taking this historic and decisive action to ensure certainty and clarity for producers who will soon be entering into forward contracts for their 2012 crop, this will create opportunities in the grain market and respect western wheat and barley farmers' property rights, rights upon which our nation was built.
I urge opposition members of the House to support the bill. Its timely passage will give farmers the certainty they need to plan their business decisions for the coming year. We will free farmers to feed families around the world with the safe, high quality wheat and barley they are so proud of.