moved that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this bill to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act. I urge hon. members to offer their support as well.
This measure was announced by the Prime Minister as part of a larger package last week to respond to the urgent needs of Canadian farmers and food processors in this challenging time. COVID-19 is placing enormous pressures on the entire sector.
The measures announced last week represent a federal investment of more than $250 million on top of additional measures previously announced, including important reforms to our farm programs.
We absolutely need to be there for our farmers. They are essential to our food security, and they deserve our full support.
The dairy sector urgently needs this amendment to the Canadian Dairy Commission Act. Our dairy sector sustains the vitality of our rural communities. It stimulates our economy by generating billions in revenue and supporting tens of thousands of jobs. All across the country, dairy producers and processors are working hard to feed us. They are constantly going above and beyond to innovate, protect the environment, and produce the best dairy products in the world.
I have spent a lot of time with dairy producers in my riding, Compton—Stanstead, which is in Quebec's Eastern Townships, and I know how hard they are working and how proud they are of every litre of milk they produce. We all get how hard it must be for them to have to dump milk because of a drop in demand.
This amendment offers a workable solution to an untenable situation. This bill is important for dairy producers and processors as well as for the food security of all Canadians.
The bill would provide an effective solution to this difficult situation. It is vital not only for dairy producers and processors, but ultimately for the food security of all Canadians.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a tremendous impact on our dairy industry. In the first two weeks of the crisis, when social distancing measures were being imposed, consumers were shopping compulsively and grocery store shelves were empty. Demand for liquid milk increased suddenly and then dropped just as suddenly when Canadian families finished stocking up.
The closure of schools, countless restaurants, businesses and the hotel industry led to a decline in demand for dairy products, especially cheese and cream.
Canada's dairy producers say they have never seen such fluctuation in demand from one week to the next. It caused quite a headache throughout the supply chain.
The industry pulled out all the stops to align production with consumer demand. Farmers did their part. Provincial marketing boards implemented measures to reduce production, including quota reductions.
It was so inspiring to see all the donations of dairy products to food banks across the country.
In my home province of Quebec, dairy producers and processors donated one million litres of milk to food banks.
In Saskatchewan, dairy producers donated products from 175,000 litres of milk to food banks across the country, enough for 30,000 pounds of cheese, yogourt and milk.
In Newfoundland, two dairy farmers joined forces with a local dairy distributor to give away milk in a drive-through in a local area arena parking lot.
On Prince Edward Island, farmers gave away blocks of cheese and cartons of milk.
In Ontario, dairy farmers contributed an additional 200,000 litres of milk to food banks across the province.
Despite these efforts, between the end of March and the first half of April, producers were forced to dump surplus milk on the farm. We must do our part to reduce this waste and preserve the integrity of our supply management system.
The industry reached out to government and asked that the Canadian Dairy Commission expand its dairy storage programs, which it uses to balance supply with fluctuations in demand.
The CDC buys dairy products like butter directly from processors to sell them off later when the demand recovers. Under its current borrowing capacity, the CDC has already succeeded in improving the situation, but it needs greater capacity to fully respond to the industry's needs.
The industry asked the CDC to temporarily purchase cheese, as it already does with butter. For example, the CDC would enter into a contractual agreement to purchase cheese from a processor, who would commit to buying it back within two years.
I am asking all hon. members for their support in introducing this bill to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act to increase its borrowing capacity from $300 million to $500 million. This measure will provide the assistance the dairy industry needs at this time of crisis. Canada's dairy producers welcome this measure. They confirm that it is a good way to strengthen our food supply chain.
This measure is in addition to the decisions announced by the Prime Minister last week, including a $125-million contribution to the AgriRecovery program to help producers and ranchers keep their animals on the farm longer. We are also contributing $77.5 million to help processors adapt to health protocols and automate or modernize their facilities or operations, and $50 million to purchase excess food from the industry and distribute it to food banks and in northern and remote regions.
Important changes to our suite of business risk management programs would dispense an average of $1.6 billion each year in direct support to farmers.
These announcements build on a number of other important investments and actions being undertaken to support our producers and processors, such as the $50 million to safely welcome temporary foreign workers or an added $20 million to help the Canadian Food Inspection Agency do its vital work. As well, as the Prime Minister has indicated, we will continue to support our producers and processors where support is needed.
The Canadian Dairy Commission has played a key role in our dairy industry for over 50 years. The commission helps to ensure that producers receive proper compensation for their hard work and that consumers have access to a wide variety of high-quality dairy products. It is vital to the supply management system in Canada. It stabilizes milk production through national quotas and, most important, it balances supply and demand through a range of programs.
The Canadian Dairy Commission currently plays a key role in many areas, including the payment of compensation to dairy producers after Canada signed free trade agreements with the European Union and the trans-Pacific region. This is not a small matter, with $345 million already issued in direct payments the first year and nearly 11,000 dairy producers to support across the country.
We thank all Canadian Dairy Commission employees for their valuable contributions. Furthermore, the commission helps the industry fill labour market needs and invest in innovation, especially with respect to animal welfare and environmental protections. This is important to our dairy producers, who want to keep up with the latest technology and environmental knowledge in order to keep pace with evolving consumer demands.
Together, the industry and the federal government are investing $16.5 million in the dairy research cluster 3, an excellent example of public-private collaboration. It brings together a team of 124 researchers from across Canada who are carrying out various projects aimed at enhancing public confidence in the dairy industry and driving economic growth in the dairy sector.
The cluster is making significant advances in developing new alfalfa varieties that will increase dairy production and therefore profits; in improving animal welfare on the farm, particularly through state-of-the-art feed management systems; and in reducing the amount of water used in dairy production. In the face of climate change, it is important, and economically worthwhile, to help the industry adopt more environmentally responsible practices.
One particular project has managed to improve a feed formula for dairy cows that could reduce the industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 17,000 tonnes and make it possible for producers to save almost $78 million a year.
There are 15 projects in total that fall under the dairy research cluster and each one of them responds to the unique needs of the sector. It is so important to help our dairy producers stay competitive and keep their businesses profitable. It is just as important to support an innovative and sustainable industry to preserve consumer confidence in our high-quality dairy products.
We are happy to work with the Canadian Dairy Commission to develop a vision for the future and an ambitious strategic plan for the Canadian dairy sector. The industry has a bright future ahead, and we want to help it weather this crisis so it can capture even greater growth in the future.
The amendment to the Canadian Dairy Commission Act is a direct response to the recommendations made by the dairy industry to address the crisis. It is what the industry needs at this time.
This is further proof of our government's support for Canada's supply management system. I would remind members that this system was established by a Liberal government together with the provinces almost 50 years ago. It is a model of stability with a proven track record that has enabled our agricultural businesses to develop and prosper.
During negotiations of the new agreement with the United States and Mexico, we strenuously defended supply management despite attempts by the Americans to dismantle it. We will continue to defend it and we will meet one of the most pressing needs of milk producers and processors. I am quite familiar with their resiliency and determination. In recent years, many of them have welcomed me to their farms, cheese factories and facilities to talk to me about their work, their accomplishments and their aspirations. I have admired them for quite some time, and I take their well-being to heart. Let us then give them what they are asking for.
Even during this time of anxiety and pressure, our producers and processors keep working hard every day to feed us, as do all the farmers and workers in our food supply chain. They seed their crops, they care for their animals, they produce high-quality food and they protect our environment. It is thanks to them that our grocery store shelves remain full. It is thanks to them that the dairy industry remains a pillar of our economy during this difficult period.
Let us amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act to increase the commission's borrowing capacity from $300 million to $500 million, so that our food system can get back up and running and so that we can keep moving our dairy products from farms to families.
Let us continue to work with the industry and with provincial and territorial governments to support agriculture and agri-food businesses across Canada.