That, since the government is signing trade agreements that are undermining supply management and that will have a negative impact on the Canadian dairy industry, the House: (a) recognize the magnitude of the economic losses to Canadian dairy producers from the importation of diafiltered milk from the United States, which totalled $220 million in 2015; (b) recognize that each day of government inaction contributes to the disappearance of a steadily increasing number of family farms across the country; (c) recognize that the entire industry is standing together to call for the problem to be resolved immediately; and (d) call upon the government to keep its election promises and honour the commitments made since the start of its mandate by immediately enforcing the compositional standards for cheese for all Canadian processors.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
I am always proud to rise in the House and speak on behalf of the people of Berthier—Maskinongé. It is an honour. It is also a real honour to move such an important motion on diafiltered milk. As everyone here knows, I often ask questions about this issue. I have been asking the government about its failure to act, and that is why I am so proud to debate today's motion in the House. I really hope I have the support of all my colleagues in the House. I also want to acknowledge the many farmers who are here with us today. Farmers work seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are passionate and dedicated individuals, and we are extremely proud of them.
I want to acknowledge the farmers here from Montérégie-Ouest, the Laurentians, the Outaouais, Lanaudière, and Mauricie. There are here for the debate in the House, and I hope they will also stay for question period.
I will briefly sum up the situation. Diafiltered milk is a concentrated milk protein from the United States. It was created to get around Canadian law, as no U.S. processor uses it. Because the Liberal government and the Conservative government before it have been slow to address the issue, this diafiltered milk, which is in gelatinous form, is being used instead of fresh milk from our farmers. This has been going on for two years now.
In 2015, imports of this product increased significantly, resulting in economic losses of $220 million for Canadian dairy farmers. This issue alone is causing each of our farmers here in Canada to lose on average $15,000 a year. This situation is disastrous for dairy farmers. They need a party that will stand up for them, and that party is the NDP.
The farmers are at the end of their rope. I think it is important to share some of their stories. We get many phone calls about this at our office. I meet with farmers daily and it is truly important to share some of their stories. I will start with that of Jean-François Allié from Saint-Léonard-d'Aston. He wrote:
“Mr. Prime Minister and dear Liberal government.... My farm is at risk. The standard price of milk of $68 per hl and $70 per hl is making me consider selling everything. My farm is my life, it’s all I have. The agreement with Europe, the TPP and the import of diafiltered milk in recent years are at the root of our losses…. I have been losing nearly $2,000 per month since May 2015. It has been a year, so that means $24,000. Please help us and address these three factors. The outlook is bleak. The Jean-François Allie farm, with 40 heads of cattle in Saint-Léonard-d'Aston, will soon disappear.”
The second story I want to share with hon. members of the House is that of Ana Maria Martin, from Lorami farm in Henryville, Quebec
“Dear Prime Minister, how disappointing for me to see that I believed in you during the election and now you are abandoning us! Doing nothing about diafiltered milk at this time is cowardly and it is destroying supply management in an insidious manner by destabilizing the market. My husband and I are milk producers and have a family farm. We bought it from his parents in 2013 and, in 2014, we invested in robotics in a barn where the cow's comfort is the priority. The goal was to be among the top elite producers of milk of excellent quality and become effective entrepreneurs and managers. Last year, we lost around $60,000 because of diafiltered milk. This factor is beyond my control, but it is not beyond yours. You are destroying our Canadian dairy industry because you do not want to upset our precious neighbours across the border. While giants send their money to tax havens, we reinvest in our region. I am the mother of four boys and it is essential that something be done before it is too late for many of us.”
I would like to read another account, that of a farmer from my region. Here is what Jean-Félix Morin had to say:
“Our farm is losing over $3,000 a month, which is more than my income.... My friends were losing even more than that and they had to sell their farm this fall. I find that really hard. Would I change careers? I would have to go back to school. It is upsetting that this is all about politics and that the government is not getting involved. No one wants to be a millionaire. We just want to make a living.”
That is important to remember. I could share other people's stories with the House, but I encourage members to go and meet with the farmers who are outside, and who will come in later to participate in the debate, and to chat with them. They are going to talk to us about how important it is to do something and to do it now. Everyone knows what the solution is.
In addition to these accounts, our online petition, which calls on the government to solve the diafiltered milk problem, was signed by over 4,500 people in less than 48 hours. All of these people are really disappointed, frustrated, and angry, and I am too. I think that many members understand the situation, but it seems that they lack the political will to do something about it. The current government is not doing anything. The Liberal government is still not taking action.
After asking a number of questions in the House, we still have no response and no action from the Liberal government. However, during the election campaign, the Liberals made a commitment to solve the diafiltered milk problem. Even the Minister of Agriculture told milk producers in February that there was never any suggestion that diafiltered milk would be used as milk. More than two months later, he is not even enforcing the existing standards.
If I were in the government’s place, I would be really embarrassed. Even worse, two departments of the same government put diafiltered milk in two different categories. Border services allows diafiltered milk to enter as milk protein concentrate, or MPC, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows processors to use diafiltered milk instead of milk in their cheese. Such a flagrant lack of consistency is unheard of.
If the government were unaware of the situation, and if the problem were not urgent, I might have been able to understand. However, everyone knows about the diafiltered milk problem, which has been going on for more than two years. We are asking questions, in the House. We even had an opportunity to conduct a brief study in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food has had many meetings with industry stakeholders, such as Quebec dairy producers, dairy producers across Canada, and even the processors. Everyone is on the same wavelength: the government must enforce the existing law and regulations.
The situation is pressing. What is at stake is this: lives, the economy, family farms and regions. The solution is simple: the government must act. Through the debate on the diafiltered milk problem that we will have today in the House, in which a number of members will participate, I am very hopeful that we will reach a consensus, that the government will support our motion, and, most importantly, that it will take action. We are now getting a lot of pressure from the Americans, and we are wondering whether the Liberal government is going to stand up for Canadian producers or capitulate to the Americans.
I am very hopeful that we will find a solution.