The final price will not be known until they have sold the product. It is too soon to give the final price now. But that is the provision in connection with potatoes. I can probably answer what my hon. friend has in mind by coming at once to the position existing in connection with cheese in Ontario. The cheese producers in Ontario have been having some difficulty in marketing their product over the years. When I came down here first 18 years ago I was convinced, as I think most hon. members were, that we ought to increase our production of cheese in Ontario and Quebec, and get back to the old levels we used to have at the beginning of the century, when we sent 150 million pounds of cheese to Great Britain.
Well, we started out to try to get that done. We got it done for one year during the war, and from that time on the price of cheese has been going up constantly but the production of cheese has been going down, until last year we could have sold all the cheese that we produced in Canada on the Canadian market and at a higher level than we could sell it at anywhere else. This year we have been up against the same experience. The cheese we have produced here, amounting to somewhere near 60 million pounds, is not enough to supply this entire market if an effort were made to sell it here, without going to any other.
It is true that we sold 10 million pounds, or at least this association sold 10 million pounds of cheese to Great Britain. We bought 5,500,000 pounds of cheese under our Agricultural Prices Support Act last May, for which we undertook to see that the farmer got 30 cents a pound, or at least on the basis of 30 cents for the milk he put in the cheese. Now, partly as a result of the fact that this 10 million pounds of cheese has been sold out of Canada, the price of cheese is comparatively high. The cheese we have now is now selling at around 35 cents a pound. We have sold about half of it at between 32 cents and 35 cents. So the farmers who delivered their milk in 1952 in order to produce the cheese we now have will probably get a little more for their cheese than the farmers who turned their milk over to the board as of the 1st of July of that year and had cheese produced from there on at a price which netted them something less than 30 cents a pound.
That situation is created through the fact that we have gone into the province of Ontario under the Agricultural Products Cooperative Marketing Act of 1939 and made it possible for the cheese producers' association to take delivery of cheese in Ontario, pay an advance of 24 cents and go on selling, and up to date they have had about 28 cents a pound. From now on they will obtain whatever sum is received in addition to what has been obtained for the product up to now. I am quite satisfied that the final price, when it is obtained, will be one that is quite satisfactory to most of the producers in the area.
I do not think it is necessary to go into a discussion of other crops that are handled under this act; I believe the point I wish to make is well illustrated, but I do want to say that the sale of what are more or less known as specialties in agriculture, such as potatoes, fruits, tobacco, vegetables of some sorts and even fluid milk, is promoted within the province by the provincial governments
The Address-Mr. Gardiner
and by the provincial farm organizations. If governments assist or control it is the provincial rather than the federal government which acts. That is so largely because of the fact that if we were to go into the provinces and promote production of some of those commodities to the detriment of the producers and affect their prices we would, of course, be open to criticism. But we say to them, all right; you go ahead and handle them. We will assist you under our co-operative marketing act and we will assist you in some other ways in connection with the handling of those products.
When we come to meat products, dairy products and grains such as feed grains and wheat, our situation is quite different. It was those products upon which the figures I read a few moments ago were largely based. When we talk about the cash income of farmers across Canada, or when we talk about the net income of farmers across Canada, we are largely reasoning with regard to what we know about the production and marketing of livestock, dairy products and grains. Reasoning from those we are inclined to say either that agriculture is better off or that agriculture is not better off.
I have not had the privilege of being in the house during the last two days because I was attending the conference, but during the time I was here listening to the debate I was somewhat surprised at the nature of the discussion in relation to these questions. I find it very difficult to be affected by the reasoning of those who say the farmers in this country are not as well off today as they were at some other time. I do not find that as I go across the country. I want to make it perfectly plain that I find farmers in Canada who are not as well off today as they were at some other time. I find localities in which a group of farmers may not be as well off today as they were at some other time. But the farmers who produce these particular products, which after all bring most of the wealth to farmers across Canada, are not in general worse off than they have been at some other time. They are better off than they have been at some other times and I do not even except the year 1951, because in 1951 we had to deal largely with what we produced in 1950 and we had not then struck one of these big crop years. 1951, 1952, 1953 were the three biggest crop years we have ever had in western Canada.
The other day I heard the Minister of Trade and Commerce (Mr. Howe) say that he used to live out in western Canada. I know he did. When I went into the legislature in Saskatchewan in 1914 he was living
at the Y.M.C.A. in Regina and had been there for possibly twelve months. His activities from that time on have been largely associated with the building of storage for grain in western Canada. Therefore he has firsthand knowledge with regard to it. My activities from that time down to this have been associated with the legislature of Saskatchewan and with this house. I said the day before yesterday, and it was in the press of yesterday, that about three-quarters of my time during that period had been taken up considering things that would be helpful to wheat farmers in particular, because in Saskatchewan we grow and have grown over the years more than half of all the wheat that is grown in western Canada and, therefore, more than half of all the hard wheat that is grown in this country.
Yesterday, listening to the members who were at the conference, and particularly the ministers, I was struck by a remark made by a minister who does not belong to the party to which I belong but comes from a province which is right alongside my province, the province of Alberta. His statement ran something like this. A great many people are talking about the oil supplies we have in Alberta. They are talking about our coal supplies. They are talking about our timber supplies, and so on. When you take the whole production of Alberta in everything else and put it up against farm production you find that farm production is $200 million greater than that of all other production put together.
Subtopic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Sub-subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY