Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague who brought forth the motion today. The wording of the motion was not exactly what we would have agreed to but any time we get to talk about rural Canada in the House is very important.
As someone mentioned earlier today, for rural Canada to be healthy we also need a healthy urban Canada. Guess who the consumers are in the country? They also live in urban Canada.
We are concerned about the U.S. farm bill and yet 75%, 85% or 87% of everything we produce goes to the United States. After we argue we have to work together. I do appreciate this opportunity to work together on behalf of rural Canada.
I appreciate the opportunity today to talk about how the policies of our government support the lives and livelihoods of rural Canadians and the communities in which they live.
The Government of Canada has confidence in the future, unlike my hon. colleagues across the floor. More specifically, the Government of Canada has confidence in the future and confidence in our rural communities.
The drought situation and the U.S. farm bill only underline the importance of the work we are doing to move the sector beyond crisis management. That is why the government is working with the provincial and territorial governments, the industry and Canadian citizens on an action plan to put in place an agricultural policy framework.
This policy is about the future. It is designed to improve the long term livelihood and the profitability of Canadian farmers. I say improve because we already have various measures in place to help Canadian farmers be successful in the face of adversities such as drought.
The Government of Canada knows the serious impact drought can have on producers and on their businesses. Accordingly, we are actively engaged in helping farmers mitigate the effects of drought in both the short term and the long term.
The 2,400 projects approved through the Canada--Saskatchewan livestock farm water program, for example, will be available to help alleviate the impact of drought on Saskatchewan livestock producers for the year 2002. The federal government has provided an additional $1.1 million to this program to help producers for the current crop year.
The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration delivers numerous programs that assist producers in adapting and mitigating the effects of drought. This work builds on the $1.1 billion we have invested so far this year in agriculture to help our farmers manage the short term and the income losses due to perils such as drought.
We are dealing with today's challenges but there are a lot more challenges coming at us. For farming to survive and thrive as a modern industry in the 21st century, we must be ready to meet the challenges they hold. This industry has always adapted to the face of challenges. We did it through innovation, adaptation and change. Challenges have taught what works and what does not work. We know what does not work and, first and foremost, it is subsidies.
The Americans have said that their farm bill is about trade liberalization. Well they are wrong. It is about protectionism. They say that the farm bill is market driven. It is not. The U.S. farm bill is mailbox driven. Instead of encouraging American producers to reap the rewards of trade liberalization, the new farm bill will encourage many to harvest handouts from the American treasury, handouts that often go to the landowners rather than to the producers.
I certainly share the frustration felt by our producer groups over the outrageous action being taken by the Americans to heavily subsidize their industry. These subsidies are not only harmful to the U.S. farmers in the long run but they have a serious effect on our Canadian farmers. American agricultural policy distorts food prices, frustrates innovation, limits product diversity and subsidizes a select group of farmers at enormous public cost.
Its inherent protectionism qualities confound American efforts to reduce protectionism abroad and gain access to new markets. By the way, those are not my words. They are directly from an American legislator.
This spiraling of subsidies discourages adaptation, diversification and profitable business growth and expansion. It saps creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
In Saskatchewan, for example, farmers have adapted to new market demands by tripling production of non-wheat crops. Now the U.S. has shown its brut strength by flexing its farm bill muscles.
Canada cannot compete on equal terms but we must fight smarter, and that we will do. We must get away from farm policies that merely prop up the past, as the U.S. has chosen to do. Rather, we must adopt policies that work toward building the future.
We need to guarantee Canadian farmers success for the future. We need a comprehensive, integrated approach to help our industry adapt to the demand of consumers and take advantage of the opportunities in the global marketplace without production and trade distorting subsidies.
The proposed agricultural policy framework aims to promote innovation among producers so that we can better focus on the concerns and demands of consumers who are the ultimate clients, whether they happen to live above, below or beyond our common borders.
We recognize, however, that our policy decisions in agriculture impact not only farmers. These decisions must also meet the needs and expectations of all citizens. Benefits, such as healthy and safe food, a clean environment, vibrant rural communities and responsible use of taxpayer money, all enhance the quality of life of all citizens.
We are working together, governments and industry, to increase the profitability of the agriculture sector by branding Canada as the world leader in food safety and quality, innovation and environmental protection, and providing the tools for Canadians to thrive and prosper in the 21st century.
The agriculture policy framework has five components that are integrated with each other: risk management for farm businesses; on farm food safety; protection of the environment; renewal for the sector; and innovation through research and science.
Business risk management is critical to the agriculture policy framework. We are working with farmers to develop a risk management approach that rewards the use of best practices in food safety and environmental protection, the adoption of innovations to expand and diversify the farm business, and the improvement of managerial and strategic planning skills acquired through the renewal activities.
We recognize that farmers face unique risks. We also recognize that we need to move away from an approach based on past performance to one based on the future potential, an approach that will encourage farmers to take action to address risk.
Combined with the other elements of the policy framework, this approach would put us in a position to address new challenges and capture new opportunities.
We want to build on Canada's reputation as a producer of safe food by strengthening our on farm food safety systems. Safety runs through the entire food chain, including on the farm. That is why many sectors in Canada are well on their way to implementing comprehensive systems such as HACCP based programs. These programs help prevent hazards that could cause food borne illnesses by applying science based controls throughout the production chain, from raw materials to finished products.
In addition to improving food safety, these additional systems, which may include product tracking and tracing, can be a valuable tool for non-food safety reasons when suppliers and producers align their systems to meet the needs of buyers, such as product identity preservation.
Consumers' concerns about food safety are matched by their concerns about the health of the environment. Canadian farmers are good stewards of the land but new farming production techniques and a shift toward larger, more intensive operations can sometimes mean greater risk to the environment if we do not do it properly.
Governments and industry are working together to develop a comprehensive system in which every farm in Canada is taking the best steps to ensure that its practices strengthen our stewardship of water, soil and air quality, and foster compatibility between agriculture and biodiversity.
That is why science and innovation are such an important part of the new policy framework.
Science has tremendous potential to help us deliver on farm food safety, strengthen environmental stewardship and create new products for the benefit of farmers and the public. It is imperative, though, that we have the confidence of the public and that we are seen to be applying sound science responsibly and with environmental benefits.
Innovation is certainly the key to unlocking the door to success in the 21st century. By being innovative we can develop new products that meet consumer choices and we can capture new markets. All the elements of the agriculture policy framework: business management; actions on food safety; measures to enhance environmental performance; better use of science and innovation; and more opportunities to enhance business management through renewal skills; all these components are integrated to help ensure the success of the sector.
The agricultural policy framework is the agricultural sector's muscle. It needs to be strong and it needs to have all of us working together. That is how we will build a successful and thriving agricultural sector which is the best contribution we can make to rural Canada.