Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to support Bill C-18, the agricultural growth act. It is important and timely, and Canada needs it. Canada needs it so agriculture entrepreneurs can harness innovation, add value, and generate jobs and growth across our great country.
The agricultural growth act would modernize and streamline nine different statutes, seven that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses to regulate Canada's agriculture sector and two administered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Let me explain why we need passage of this proposed legislation now. As new agricultural production techniques and new developments in science thrive, the legislative base for agricultural products must keep pace, especially since other international partners have modernized their legislation. We need the agricultural growth act because it would provide the legislative backbone for growth.
If Canada's farmers, along with the agriculture and food sector, are to maintain their competitive edge on the global stage, they need 21st century technology. We need to keep pace with the modern world, and we need to help our farmers grow their businesses. I am going to touch on some key changes outlined in the agricultural growth act to show what I mean.
First, let me touch on plant breeders' rights. The act would bring plant breeders' rights in line with international competitors. This would ensure that farmers would have the latest crop varieties they need to keep pace with competition. At the same time, the act is explicit. It recognizes the traditional practice of saving and reusing seed from crops grown on their own land, which is known as “farmers' privilege”.
Let me be clear. With the proposed amendments to the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, Canada's farmers would continue to be able to save, clean, treat, and replant seeds of protected varieties on their own land. The proposed changes would encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada, which would increase the choices Canadian farmers have in accessing high-yielding crop varieties.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario said the following about this very issue in a news release on December, 2013:
The new act will give both public and private sector plant breeders the ability and confidence to continue to develop new seed varieties needed to improve yields and keep Canada competitive on the world market. The act will also encourage new product development and research.
Now let me touch on the licensing and registration of feed and fertilizer manufacturers. The agricultural growth act proposes new broader controls on the safety of Canada's agricultural inputs through the licensing or registration of feed and fertilizer manufacturers. The proposed amendment would align Canadian legislation with international trading partners and would help our feed and fertilizer industries maintain their export markets, particularly in the United States.
The act would give the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the ability to license and register fertilizer and animal feed operators and facilities that import or sell products across provincial or international borders. This would be in addition to the current system, in which feed and fertilizer products are registered product by product. Again, we are keeping farmers top of mind. This amendment would apply to businesses that sell animal feed and fertilizer products across provincial and international borders, not to farmers who make these products for use on their very own farms.
Any licensing regime would require regulations before it could operate, so it would be developed in detailed consultations with stakeholders. As Graham Cooper, executive director of the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada told the Western Producer about the bill on December 13, 2013, “What it does is requires commercial feed mills to have preventive control plans, hazard identification and control plans in place”.
This is something the industry wants and is a tool the government needs.
Let me touch on a measure that would allow for the consideration of foreign reviews and analyses in the approval process. For me, this is a personal acknowledgment, as for a long time farmers have been negatively affected by the current regime in registration.
Many in this House will remember my private member's Motion No. 460 in 2010, which called upon the government to allow the CFIA, the PMRA, and the Veterinary Drug Directorate of Health Canada to consider foreign science when approving new products. The Minister of Agriculture listened, and this clause in the bill is the result.
This is an amendment designed to promote innovation and cut red tape when it comes to the registration of new agriculture products. The proposed change would clarifiy and confirm the CFIA's authority to consider foreign reviews, data, and analyses during the evaluation for approval or registration of new agriculture products to the Canadian market. This information would be considered in addition to the ongoing Canadian reviews and analyses. This in turn allows for an efficient and effective approval process so that Canada's farmers can benefit from the latest scientific research from around the world and keep pace with our competition. This is a great example of how members of Parliament can bring forward ideas on behalf of their constituents and their producers and get them enshrined into law.
I now want to touch on new border controls for the imported agricultural products.
The agriculture growth act will give the Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors the authority to order imported shipments of feed, fertilizers, and seed out of Canada if they do not meet legal requirements. This is similar to the way that imported plants and animals may be ordered to be removed if they do not meet legal requirements.
Under the current process, the CFIA negotiates a solution or there are likely to be court proceedings after the seizure of an illegal product related to animal feeds, seeds, and fertilizers. Basically this process works, but at times Canada must then also pay to dispose of the illegal products that are seized. Now we can see how being able to order the products out of Canada, out of our country, would be more effective and efficient. At the same time, the act would give CFIA inspectors the ability to allow importers to fix the problem in Canada, but only if it is not a matter of safety and if they can be sure that the issue will be addressed.
The proposed amendments would provide the CFIA with stronger tools to more effectively fulfill its mandate to protect Canada's plant and animal resource base. This change will provide additional reassurance to Canadian farmers that imported agriculture products meet our requirements and that they are competing on a more level playing field.
I wish to point out that the agriculture growth act reflects extensive stakeholder consultations carried out over the past number of years, and we are committed to additional consultation. Upon the act's receiving royal assent—and it is my great desire to see that day—some of the changes in this bill would come into force almost immediately, while others would be phased in or would require regulatory amendments. However, members can be assured that before any changes are implemented, our government is committed to full consultation to determine how to best move forward.
That is what the agriculture growth act is about. That is why I am asking all parliamentarians to give the agriculture growth act their careful attention and to move it forward so that we will have the legislative backbone to continue providing Canada's farmers and food processors with the tools they need to drive new economic growth and compete in the global economy.
In December of last year, David Hansen, vice-chair of Cereals Canada, said, “The changes being introduced through the tabling of this...bill in Parliament will truly enable Canada’s agriculture industry to grow.” I agree with him totally.