Mr. Georges Villeneuve (Roberval):
Mr. Speaker, when the house adjourned last night, I was dealing with the psychological
aspect of this bill which provides for the stabilization of the prices of agricultural commodities. I should now like to touch upon the practical aspects of this plan.
It is no exaggeration to say that the dairy industry is the backbone of Quebec agriculture. I might add that, in my own constituency, Roberval, it accounts for at least half of the total annual farm income. The support price of butter at 58 cents a pound has saved the farmers of my riding from bankruptcy. It has brought them a degree of security which, although it has not made them rich, has allowed them to pull through. The former St. Laurent government saw fit to support the price of butter at 58 cents a pound although at certain times 125 million pounds of it were in storage throughout the country and butter was selling at 38 cents a pound on the international market. May I congratulate the former minister of agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) on his understanding of the problems of eastern farmers, and especially those in the province of Quebec when in 1955, at a time when he was considering to discontinue the support price for butter, because of a surplus in excess of a hundred million pounds, he yielded to the representations of a delegation from rural counties, of which I was a member, requesting that the support price be kept at the same level. Instead of letting that butter spoil in warehouses, the former government sold much of it on the international market and allowed our educational institutions and hospitals to take advantage of the international market price, 38 cents a pound. No sooner had the present government come to power than that privilege was withdrawn from those institutions, to their utter dismay and my own personal deep regret.
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
Under this bill, unless the new board of stabilization of agricultural prices uses other standards than the average price over the previous ten years, what will be the new guaranteed price for butter?
In 1957, the average price of first grade butter on the Montreal market was 60.6 cents a pound. According to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, in the ten years prior to 1958, (that is from 1947 to 1957 inclusive) the average price of butter was 62 cents a pound. Under this bill,-if the board does not take into account other factors than the average price on a 10-year basis,- the guaranteed price of butter will be 49.6 cents a pound, 8.4 cents less than the support price granted by the former Liberal government under the Agricultural Prices Support Act. And if there should be a surplus of butter, as happened these last few years, farmers could count only on this guaranteed price of 49.6 cents a pound, and would have no alternative but to sell their herds as beef cattle and give up the none too prosperous dairy industry.
That is why I urge the government to give special consideration to the basis it will adopt in setting the floor price of butter, so that the price will not be lower than the 58 cent support price now in force. This is a matter of primary importance to the farm people of my constituency, whose interests it is my duty to protect.
According to figures supplied by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the 80 per cent average which is to be set as a guaranteed price for the following products would be these:
Guaranteed price 1958
Average price 1957 80 per cent
Commodity cents Grade Market centsHogs B-l Toronto
23.36 per poundButter
60.6 per pound No. 1 Montreal
49.6 per poundBeef .... 18.95 per pound Good Toronto
17.44 per poundEggs "A" large Montreal
45.4 per doz.Cheese
34.1 per pound White Toronto
27.0 per poundSheep
22.75 per pound Good Toronto
19.58 per pound
As this bill concerns the stabilization of farm prices by the establishment of guaranteed minimum prices set a year in advance, I would see in it the possibility of some security for the farmer if there was some relationship between the cost of the services required by the farmer-namely the price of farm implements and other farm equipment he has to buy as well as his labour costs- and the standards to be used in setting the
stabilization prices of farm products under this bill. That is why I really wonder about the advantages which this legislation would bring to the Canadian farmer. I realize it is by no means easy, at a time when agriculture is undergoing radical changes, to find a perfect solution to the difficult problem facing our agricultural class which, in our part of the country, is passing from the family stage
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization to the industrial stage, a change tor which our farmers are not all adequately prepared.
It would seem that, to face competition, our farmers will soon be forced to become something like managers of medium sized industrial concerns, and deal with such matters as market trends and production costs. Many of them, already, are clearly aware of those hard realities of our times. In my constituency in particular, with its growing number of progressive farmers, I have noticed a trend toward mechanization, development of larger farm areas and even specialization in a particular type of agricultural production, for instance poultry, hogs or eggs. It seems to me that those trends should not be ignored, and I believe it is time the agricultural loans' act were substantially improved for the benefit of farmers who wish to expand their farms and to make greater use of machinery so as to lower their operating costs as much as possible and also to encourage them to put on the market the finished products required by the consumer. All such capital expenditure requires funds beyond the means of the average farmer, however anxious he may be to keep up with the times.
Along with this last suggestion, I would like the industrial development bank to make its facilities more readily available to small industries in our agricultural communities, so as to open up local markets for our farmers. Not only would those small industries absorb a certain amount of agricultural manpower not at present interested in agriculture-therefore unwittingly overcrowding the farming profession-but would create jobs for those people.
It has always been my view that farming and industry should go hand in hand and that industry and farming in Canada will prosper only at such time as the farm worker can count on a yearly income comparable to that of the industrial worker, taking into account the particular obligations, risks and advantages in each group and profession.
As I like to believe in the good intentions of everybody, I am prepared to adopt this attitude towards the minister, whom I admire for piloting this far, with unruffled patience, so ungainly a bill, and I ask him in closing to avail himself wisely of the discretionary powers which are his under subsection 2 of clause 2 of this bill, if it passes, so that this legislation might serve the interests of farm people, as he expects it will. A 100 per cent farm legislation for an agricultural class 100 per cent worthy of the name, that is what I request for the farmers of my constituency.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.