moved that Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, grain production in Canada has never been a static industry. From the time wheat was first introduced to Western Canada in 1812 by the Selkirk Settlers in Manitoba's Red River Valley, the crop has been in a state of change. It has been adapted and improved to meet the needs of producers and consumers. Producers are always looking for improvements in qualities such as plant vigour, early maturity, resistance to shatter and resistance to rust. Consumers, in turn, look for the qualities they need to use the product in a variety of ways.
Here in Canada, we have been successful in breeding new crop varieties to meet these changing needs. Since the early 1930s, over 600 new crop varieties have been introduced. Canada has set international standards for quality with the wheat and barley we have developed. Still, as the needs of consumers and producers have become more finely focused, more sophisticated plant-breeding techniques have become necessary. While our research scientists may find varieties which fill our current needs, we cannot afford to rest on our past successes. Our grain crops must be able to adapt to the requirements of an ever-changing world.
For producers, it is important that the crops grow efficiently with excellent field performance.
From an environmental standpoint, this means high-yielding crops so we can free land resources for other uses. It also means crops which require reduced amounts of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals to reach their maximum potential.
The results of continued research allow prairie farmers to effectively produce the grain crops our customers demand. The need for this research comes from our industry and from producers. Grain growers across the prairies have told the minister that they want to play an important role in research since the results of research directly affect their operations and their livelihood.
This is why the Minister of Agriculture recommends amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act to allow voluntary levies to be deducted for the express purpose of supporting plant breeding research. An amendment is necessary since such deductions are not possible under the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act.
This check-off program has been developed in close consultation with the 12 prairie farm organizations that make up the Western Grains Research Foundation. These supporters include the United Grain Growers, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, Manitoba Pool Elevators, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Alberta Wheat Pool, Prairie Canola Growers Council, Flax Growers Western Canada, Keystone Agricultural Producers, Western Barley Growers Association, Oat Producers Association of Alberta, Canadian Seed Growers Association and Unifarm. Scientists from universities and from the department have also participated in planning this program.
With the passage of Bill C-50, research funds would be generated through voluntary levies on wheat and barley sales.
The proposed check-off program would apply a voluntary levy of 20 cents a tonne on wheat and 40 cents a tonne on barley. It is anticipated that this would generate about $4.7 million annually in funds to be applied directly to wheat and barley plant breeding research. This would be in addition to the over $21.5 million on wheat research in the 1993-94 crop year and a further $8 million on barley research which this government is already committed to.
Levies would be applied to producers' final payment cheques from the Canadian Wheat Board and placed in a special account. Funds from this account would be transferred to the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), which will administer the research funding program. It is important to note that in maintaining our fiscal responsibility to all Canadians, this new program will create no new agency, institution or bureaucracy. This means that more producer dollars will go to research.
The administrative structure already in place at the Canadian Wheat Board would be used to collect the levy and a proven producer-driven research funding agency would distribute the funds. Total incremental administrative costs associated with this program are estimated to be in the range of 2 per cent of total levies collected.
By using structures already in place, we would be able to maximize producers' investments in research. The Foundation will report to all CWB permit book-holders so that they can see whether it is using their funds wisely. In a sense, the ultimate accountability of this program is that it is voluntary.
If a CWB permit book-holder does not agree with what the Western Grains Research Foundation is doing, he can withdraw from the program. The Foundation needs to demonstrate to producers that it is using their funds wisely, in order to maintain their support. At this point, I should add that the WGRF, a federally chartered public organization, has a proven track record in supporting effective pure research.
The importance of the investments made by our grain producers in research cannot be overestimated. This research has the potential to increase yields by 15 per cent, which could translate into additional gross earnings of $400 million a year for western grain farmers. This $400 million is not hyperbole, especially when you consider that a one-bushel-per-acre increase in wheat yields in Western Canada at today's prices would increase revenues by $100 million.
This program will help Canada remain competitive in the international market and help us maintain our position with other exporters. Just as important, research like this will help further the development of value-added products in the grains sectors. I mentioned earlier the increased income of potential international customers. It is these value-added products which will give us a distinct advantage when we are dealing with these customers, and it is research which will give Canada an advantage in developing new products.
This initiative is an excellent example of industry taking the lead in research funding. It also illustrates this government's willingness to address needs Canadians themselves have identified and to form strong partnerships for the good of all Canadians. With producers and government working together, all Canadians will share in the benefits of this program. I therefore recommend that the House approve Bill C-50, amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act to allow voluntary levies to be deducted in support of this important research program.