Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the member for Churchill has called this debate because it allows me to explain to the House why our government is moving forward on marketing freedom and to dispel some of the myths that surround this issue.
Our government has been open and transparent about our commitment to marketing freedom from day one, through four elections and countless interactions with Canadians along the way. We welcome this debate as part of our commitment to clearly communicate our reasons for moving forward on marketing freedom.
To briefly address this motion, supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board are totally different issues. Unlike the opposition, we have done more than talk about our support on supply management. We have consistently defended Canada's right to this marketing system at different international meetings, including the World Trade Organization and most recently the Cairns group meeting held in September in Saskatoon.
We have just received a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and to the leaders of all the parties in the House from the president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, which I will read into the record. It is about supply management.
We are urgently writing to you today in response to the discourse that has been taking place and is having an unintended negative impact on supply management. We do not want our system to be drawn into discussions on other collective marketing systems such as the Canadian Wheat Board.
There are key distinctions between the various marketing models and justice is not served to any model, or the farmers that operate within those systems, when they are not considered in their full and distinct context. We are fortunate to operate within a dairy supply management model that is strongly supported by all partners in the system--farmers, processors and government.
Dairy farmers appreciate the strong support of all political parties for the supply management system. We also appreciate the repeated support and demonstrated willingness of the federal government to defend supply management both domestically and internationally. We do not question this government's support for our system. We have accepted the clear policy intentions that the government has stated in several throne speeches.
We are instead focused on working with the government and our sector partners to ensure that we continue to have a strong and profitable dairy sector in Canada. We strongly reject all attacks and misinformation that is advanced by other self-interested organizations that are not interested in having a strong Canadian dairy sector where farmers are able to get their returns directly from the marketplace.
We hope we can continue to count on all political parties and parliamentarians as we work on continued success in the Canadian dairy sector.
I would also like to address the other part of the member's motion regarding the Canadian Wheat Board's plebiscite.
The Canadian Wheat Board announced the results of its expensive survey. It is interesting that according to the Canadian Wheat Board's spring survey some 58% of wheat producers and 62% of barley producers favoured a dual and/or open market system. The Canadian Wheat Board's so-called plebiscite did not even give producers the option of selecting marketing choice, even though the Canadian Wheat Board knows that marketing choice is preferred by producers.
Whatever the numbers say, this debate is about rights not rhetoric. The rights of one group should never be allowed to silence the rights of another. Farmers should not run the risk of jail time for driving our economy. We are listening to all farmers, including the thousands who did not vote in a plebiscite that the Canadian Wheat Board's own director says is non-binding.
Should farmers have the right to voluntarily market their grain through the Canadian Wheat Board? Absolutely. That is why our government intends to let every farmer have the right to choose how to market their grain, whether it is individually or through a voluntary pooling equity.
Farmers who wish to continue marketing their grain through a viable Canadian Wheat Board would be greatly advantaged if the board would stop wasting time and instead get to work on ensuring a smooth transition to an open market. After all, western Canadian farmers help feed the world. They deserve the freedom to make their own business decisions.
Our government was elected on a mandate to provide western Canadian farmers marketing freedom and we intend to deliver on that promise.
The transition to marketing choice for farmers will provide opportunities for farmers and is a key component of the work that this government is doing to ensure Canada's competitiveness in an increasingly globalized marketplace.
The Government of Canada firmly believes that freer trade is key to securing the success of the Canadian economy. Trade enhances domestic competitiveness, improves productivity, raises real wages, and provides consumers with more choice at lower prices.
Participation in global commerce has helped Canadians build a strong, stable economy that boasts leading edge companies, a highly skilled and educated workforce, world-class financial infrastructure, and top quality research and development facilities.
Our government knows that Canada's long-term prosperity is driven by the ingenuity and creativity of hard-working families, small business owners, entrepreneurs and farmers across the country.
It is about time that western Canadian grain farmers stopped being treated like second class citizens and had the same rights as farmers in other parts of Canada and around the world.
Marketing freedom is ultimately about rights, but it is about the economy, too. Canadian farmers have been the backbone of Canada's economy for generations. They provide families across this country and around the world with the safest, high quality food. Despite the many challenges they face, they continue to dedicate themselves to their farm businesses and in doing so help keep our economy stable.
Canada's grain industry is a powerhouse that brings $16 billion to the farm gate and makes up almost half of our agricultural exports. What was once Canada's signature crop, wheat, has fallen behind. Grain innovation has become stagnant. Competition for acres has weakened. New crops, such as canola, have surpassed wheat in value.
With the reduced market share, the Canadian Wheat Board has less influence on the world stage. As a result, it has become a price taker rather than a price setter.
Let us look at some of the successes in crops that are marketed by farmers independent of the Canadian Wheat Board. We need to remember that non-board crops make up a full two-thirds of Canadian farmers' farm cash receipts from grain.
From 1989 to 2010, the area ceded to canola has increased by a staggering 233%. Meanwhile, Canada's pulse industry has gone from negligible in the 1980s to becoming a significant world exporter in 2010, with $2 billion in export sales last year. Combined, these industries are bringing real dollars to the farm gate and creating jobs right across Canada.
Let us look at what happened to oats when it came out from under the monopoly. In Manitoba alone, the acreage of oats has increased by 175,000 acres since its removal from the Wheat Board's control. This has allowed for the opening and expansion of Can-Oat, a processing mill in Portage la Prairie.
These are the types of value-added industries and jobs that exist when farmers have the option to market their products as they so choose.
Our government simply wants to give western wheat and barley farmers their chance to stand alongside canola, pulse and oat farmers in marketing their products to world markets the way they see fit. We want to give all farmers every opportunity to succeed.
Marketing freedom is about rights and the economy. It is also about innovation. We have seen how innovation has driven value-added processing in other crops, such as oats and canola. Well, marketing freedom will unlock this potential for our barley and wheat growers as well.
Farmer entrepreneurs will be able to target new untapped niche markets for their wheat and barley through speciality pools, value-added investments and other innovative strategies. They will work with the entire value chain to attract new investment to the Prairies, create new jobs, revitalize rural communities, and grow wealth in western Canada.
That is the power of innovation, and that is why our government is supporting marketing freedom. Giving farmers the option to determine where and how they sell their products comes down to sound forward-thinking, and a realistic and optimistic view of agriculture in today's marketplace.
Over the past year we have demonstrated our support for farmers through significant investments in research, innovation and marketing. For example, we are keeping our wheat producers on the leading edge of innovation through investments in the wheat genome and fusarium resistant varieties.
These kinds of investments represent our unwavering commitment to moving the grain industry forward so that farmers can continue to succeed in markets here at home and around the world.
Many of our leading edge innovations in wheat and barley have come from the great work of Canadian International Grains Institute, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, and the Western Grains Research Foundation. This great work will continue under marketing freedom.
As we work through the transition, we are making every effort to ensure the certainty and clarity producers need to plan their businesses for the coming year. Producers need to know that the financial tools they rely on will be there when they need them.
As I said at the outset, we need to cut through the rhetoric and focus on the road ahead. The future looks bright. Demand and opportunity are growing in our agricultural industry as never before. Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia governments, representing up to 85% of the wheat and barley grown in western Canada, support the move to marketing freedom.
Our government will continue to work with the entire value chain, including the Canadian Wheat Board to ensure that every farmer has marketing freedom. The Canadian Wheat Board is welcome to be part of the solution, but we will not waver from our commitment to marketing freedom.
In this open market, all farmers will be able to choose how they market their grain, whether it is individually or through a pooling entity. This is the choice that farmers have asked for, and that is what we intend to deliver.
Right around the world, we are working hard to unfetter our grain farmers from the shackles of protectionism through free trade agreements with key customers in South America, Africa and elsewhere.
We recognize that this is a major change for agriculture in western Canada. Canadian farmers have proven time after time that they can compete and succeed in the global marketplace if they have a level playing field.
That is why our government is working so hard to build new opportunities in global markets. We want to ensure that our farmers and food processors can continue to deliver their high-quality products to consumers around the world. Market access is a priority for this government and we are working closely with industry both to develop new markets for agricultural goods and to expand existing ones.
Just this week we issued a report that outlines Canada's successes in market development and the results are very good. The report reflects our government's commitment to improving the profitability, competitiveness and trade opportunities for the Canadian sector. It highlights accomplishments in 10 different markets for commodities, including beef, pork, canola, wheat, pulses and animal genetics.
For example, in 2010 the government negotiated a new duty-free access for Canadian hormone-free beef to the European Union. As of July 2011, this new access had resulted in shipments of approximately 626 tonnes of Canadian beef worth almost $5 million.
As well, we increased access for Canadian beef to the Russian market. Consequently, our beef exports to Russia have tripled, 328% by value, and surpassed $23 million in 2010.
We obtained a stable trading environment with China for canola, and negotiated transitional measures for canola seed exports. This helped to maintain our market for exports of canola seed, oil and meal to China which exceeded $1.8 billion in both 2009 and 2010.
We also secured a breakthrough agreement with China to allow staged market access for beef and tallow. When fully implemented, this may be worth an estimated $110 million annually.
In 2010 we were the fifth largest agricultural and agrifood exporter, with exports worth over $36 billion.
Canadian farmers have asked for tools and options to compete globally and that is what we are providing. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets and this government is listening.
These successes on the international scene benefit Canadian farmers and exporters and contribute to our economic growth. Our government is very proud of that and so is industry.
Following the release of the market access report, Travis Toews, the president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, thanked the ministers for agriculture and trade, and I quote:
...for working hard to create that access for us. I appreciate [their] continued emphasis...on improving and maintaining market access for Canadian farmers and ranchers.
Likewise, the Canadian Meat Council, said it is:
...very grateful for the consistent hard work and dedicated persistence of the Government of Canada in securing and expanding foreign market access for Canadian beef and pork products between January, 2010 and March 2011.
In addition to the achievements I just mentioned, last summer we announced a breakthrough in restoring long-awaited access to the lucrative South Korean beef market, as well as access to the Vietnamese market for live breeding cattle, sheep and goats.
Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our farmers to drive the Canadian economy and it helps all Canadians by creating jobs and prosperity. Our government works hard to ensure that our farmers and food processors can continue to deliver their high-quality products to consumers around the world. By reopening, maintaining and expanding international markets, we are making sure that Canadian farmers can contribute to this country's economic growth and make their living from the marketplace, not the mailbox.
We want Canadian farmers and processors to get the credit they deserve for the high-quality products they bring to market. Our agricultural exporters are innovative and competitive and we are working with them to expand their markets.
Canada is working on all fronts to boost our agricultural business around the world. We have already announced branding strategies in Japan, Mexico and Korea. These dollars are supporting market research, advertising, store features, culinary tourism and other promotional activities that bolster the work being done by Canadian industry to sell its products. Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our producers to drive the Canadian economy.
There are challenges facing the industry, but the long-term signs are positive. During this time of global economic uncertainty, we have to maximize trade opportunities on the world stage. The marketing freedom for grain farmers bill is another way in which this government is providing opportunities for our farmers to shine both at home and internationally. I hope my colleagues in the House of Commons will support this important piece of legislation and not support the motion from the NDP. In supporting the legislation, they would be supporting western Canadian farmers who produce some of the best wheat and barley the world has to offer.