Mr. Speaker, I have not been insulted. If my colleague was not saying that in jest, I would be insulted.
We have just heard from one of our valuable members of the all party Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. I heard one of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance say in the last two weeks that we were the committee on the Hill that gets along better, for all the right reasons, than any other committee. I believe we have good people sitting around the table. We do not always agree. I am certain that we will hear the ideas of the hon. member for Brandon—Souris in the near future and when we visit his community in the fall.
This debate is very important. The importance of being prepared for an agricultural disaster cannot be overemphasized. I thank the hon. member for raising the profile of the issue. However the government cannot support the bill for very obvious reasons.
My colleague knows that first and foremost Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is already responsible for developing policies and procedures in case of agricultural losses or disasters. There is no denying the importance of our agriculture and agri-food sector. It is an integrated and complex $130 billion a year chain. It is the second largest manufacturing sector and the employer of one out of every seven jobs in Canada.
The current system allows the government to develop positions regarding agricultural policy that are consistent with the national interest. It includes accounting for what is the best for the country as a whole, for both rural and urban Canadians. The proposed bill would not allow us to do that.
Legislating the committee's mandate and membership structure would reduce the government's flexibility to consult more broadly on different and evolving issues. To develop programs and policies for the sector, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada consults with a wide range of stakeholders. These consultations are a valuable means of listening to Canadians and sharing ideas.
AAFC has a long history of consulting with national farm organizations, producers, processors, provinces and territories. The department is also reaching out to consumers, citizens, non-government organizations and civil society organizations that look to AAFC to provide safe food, a clean environment and products that improve the quality of life. That is what we provide and Canadians do a great job of it.
The government values opportunities to engage in informed discussion with people representing a broad range of opinions. The insights gained from these consultations are crucial to the department as it continues to serve the priority needs of Canadians. By taking the views of a wide range of Canadians into account, the government is better positioned to ensure the agriculture and agri-food sector is competitive and innovative in the future.
I will take a few moments to review the safety net programs we already have in place. Last July, federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers signed a three year framework agreement on farm income safety nets worth $5.5 billion. The federal government is investing up to $3.3 billion over the next three years and the provinces are contributing up to $2.2 billion.
In addition to bringing more money to the table, the new agreement marked the first time ever that all the provinces and the federal government, including Manitoba, signed on to a common approach to delivering federal-provincial farm safety net programs, an approach which includes an ongoing income disaster program the Canadian farmers had requested.
The Canadian farm income program, or CFIP, is a three year national disaster program designed to provide funding for agricultural producers here in Canada to address serious income reductions that are beyond their control. The framework also provides the basis for federal and provincial core safety net programs, which include fall cash advances, NISA, crop insurance and province specific programs.
Another reason why the government cannot support the bill is that agriculture disasters and farm income are not issues in isolation from all the others facing farmers. That is why the government is going even further in domestic policy development, with the goal of greater security for this sector.
That is why we are working on a strategy that includes income stabilization, adjustment and transition, food safety and environmental protection. This strategy will provide producers with the appropriate tools to manage their individual situations with a market oriented, globally competitive industry. To achieve that goal, we are broadening our understanding of risk to include the entire food chain, from field to fork, and to include not only price and yield risks but also environmental and food safety concerns.
We are helping the agriculture and agrifood sectors manage all of the risks that they face and respond to the growing expectations of citizens and consumers. We are enhancing our already great reputation for being known throughout the world as a supplier of high quality and safe products. We want customers to choose Canada because it sets the standard for food safety and for environmental responsibility in the production of our food. This strategy, not the bill put forward by the member opposite, will make Canada the world leader in using environmentally sustainable practices and in producing safe, high quality food.
This approach builds on the advancements in science, particularly life science, the growing knowledge of living things and to facilitate sector growth. Canadians are world leaders in agricultural research and development, with recognized expertise in areas such as sustainable farming practices, biotechnology and life science.
Life sciences, for example, are creating a whole new range of products and services based on renewable resources such as plants. We are actively pursuing new and expanded uses for traditional agricultural commodities, including, for example, biodiesel additives that are made from canola, nutriceuticals from tomatoes and from flax, and the production of high value pharmaceutical proteins in plants.
We have many great possibilities staring at us in the immediate future. We are also developing completely new crops in which to deliver viable chemicals to all kinds of applications. Our farmers will have the tools that they need to produce products that are the number one choice of Canadian citizens and consumers around the globe.
Consumers will choose Canada because it sets the standard for food safety, for environmental responsibility and for innovation and because a Canadian product from the Canadian market is one that people can trust and believe in. A Canadian product can always be believed in and we are very proud of it.
In turn, our producers in rural communities will reap the benefits of the new markets, economic growth and investment that are rightfully theirs. We will provide them with a legacy and a future that is a source of national pride, an unbeatable national advantage that will support generations to come.
We are producing products in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner so that our natural resources are productive for generations to come.
We are continuing our efforts to maintain and enhance our reputation for safe and high quality food production. We are looking to science and research to develop new products and new ways to better serve humankind.
We are moving forward. The proposed bill is taking a step backward, but I am sure my colleague will be back at another time to do a better job, with more research, and we will look at this issue again.
I look forward to debate in committee tomorrow when in fact our guest speaker will be the Secretary of State for Rural Development. It is worth noting that this is the first time in the history of the House of Commons there has been a minister responsible for rural development in Canada. I am glad to say that the minister will be in front of our committee tomorrow.