Mr. John Burton (Regina East):
level of return on the 1967-68 crop will be extremely disappointing to the farmers of western Canada, though I might say it will not be entirely a surprise to them as they saw the crisis which was looming on the farm front before the government did.
The returns being provided at the present time and the level of prices are not nearly adequate to meet the needs of the agricultural economy. I think it ought to be emphasized once again that western Canada and the agricultural economy of that region face a crisis and that this crisis is bound to effect the national economy. Farm prices have been falling over the last two years while farm costs continue to rise. During the past year the index of farm costs has risen by some 5 per cent.
We can also expect that the wheat payment will be low. This I feel is the result of the abdication of responsibility by the federal government particularly during the period between the expiration of the international wheat agreement and the commencement of the new international grains arrangement-it was during this period that the grain crisis developed to the full extent which we are witnessing today.
The downward trend of grain prices is continuing into this year. The level of Winnipeg cash prices for oats presently ranges around 86 cents a bushel compared with an average of 92 cents a year ago. Prices for No. 2 C.W.-6 row Barley are in the area of $1.07 compared with $1.25 a year ago. This indicates that the situation is getting worse, yet we have seen little or nothing in the way of government action to deal with these problems.
In addition to the price factor, the farmers of western Canada have this year been faced with extremely difficult problems involving damp and tough grain. On many occasions my colleagues and other members of this house have endeavoured to bring the full impact of this crisis to the realization of the government, but the government has been slow in taking action and in developing initiatives. The farmers of western Canada are extremely disappointed by the ineffectiveness of government action over the past several months.
The full impact of the crisis with respect to damp and tough grain will become more clearly known in the course of the next few weeks and will be entirely in line with the predictions made by the western agricultural organizations and by the farmers on the scene. Thus I urge the government, before it is too late, to take measures to deal with this crisis which is affecting all of Canada.