Mr. Larry McCormick (Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to talk about a very serious crisis that is ongoing. I have met with many people from Prince Edward County, Hastings County, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac. They are all suffering, yet I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the things we have done and what we are doing.
The government fully understands the financial hardships that Canadian cattle producers and the Canadian cattle industry have endured and continue to endure ever since we had the bad news on May 20 that a single cow had been discovered with BSE. When we export $4 billion worth of cattle and beef a year and our major customer closes its border, the impact is going to be severe. It has been severe on the farms, in the feedlots and throughout the beef industry.
The Government of Canada continues to work with people in the industry to help see them through this difficult time. We have done so since day one and we will continue to do so until we have the full resumption of the integrated North American cattle industry that we had on and before May 19.
While the immediate priority has been to focus energies on reopening the border, at the same time the government has been working to assist the industry financially until such time as full trade in beef and cattle resumes with all of Canada's trading partners. Of course other animals are involved such as the goat industry, the sheep industry, and as we have heard, cattle of all kinds, from the dairy to the heifers and the springers.
As my hon. colleagues will recall, immediately after the news was announced, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency launched a comprehensive trace back and trace forward investigation. This investigation involved the necessary culling of some 2,700 animals. The CFIA has now compensated producers for all animals ordered destroyed during the active investigation. Cheques have been sent out, with amounts based on the market value of each animal.
When it became apparent that the U.S. border reopening was not imminent, on June 18 my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with his provincial and territorial colleagues, announced cost shared assistance totalling $460 million. The national BSE recovery program comprised a maximum investment of $276 million from the federal government and a maximum of $184 million from provincial and territorial governments.
This assistance was designed to compensate producers when the price of cattle fell below a reference price based upon the market value in the U.S. The producers of other ruminants were also eligible for payments.
Under this program, processors are also offered incentives to sell or otherwise move out of inventories surplus meat cuts that were produced after May 20. The aim was to free up storage space, allowing processors to operate in an increased capacity to serve the domestic market.
On August 17 my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, announced an addition to the recovery program involving an investment of $36 million.
The national BSE recovery program, which represented a total federal investment of $312 million, fully did the job it was intended to do. Slaughter levels were restored to comparable levels before May 19. The domestic market was kept moving and feedlots and processors received some relief from severely depressed prices. With the help, support and fairness of those processors, we certainly could have done much better. In my opinion, they did not try hard enough.
We are now in the fall season. Calves are coming off pasture and producers' need for cash to mitigate the effects of the border closure is still urgent. To this end, in his August 17 announcement, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food also advanced disaster assistance to producers under bilateral agreements, with provinces already committing funding for all five elements under the agricultural policy framework. Some provinces signed these bilateral agreements yesterday and producers will be able to apply for assistance within two weeks.
These advances constitute a transition measure until new business risk management programming is fully implemented across Canada. Transition funding will be equal to a portion of a producer's expected payments for this year, when the new Canadian agricultural income stabilization program comes into force.
Just this past Friday, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced further assistance for producers through the second installment of $600 million in transition funding. This investment is part of the $1.2 million investment that the Government of Canada announced in June 2002.
This will help producers with immediate needs related to BSE as well as other pressures encountered this year. Cheques will be delivered directly to producers across the country this fall. Payments will be based on a producer's average eligible net sales for the past five years. Payments will not be counted as revenue under the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program.
This direct payment approach is preferred by most producer groups, and it fulfills the Government of Canada's commitment to continue to help the industry with its immediate needs while in transition to the new programming under the agricultural policy framework. I know my colleague the hon. Minister of Agriculture is eager to get the available resources out to farmers as soon as possible.
Under the business risk management element of the agricultural policy framework, there is a total of $1.1 billion a year in federal dollars available to producers in provinces that have signed the framework implementation agreement. Collectively under the cost sharing agreement, the provinces and the territories will contribute another $700 million. This brings the total investment to $1.8 billion a year. That amounts to a total federal, provincial and territorial investment of some $9 billion over the five years of the framework.
We need to flow these APF funds as soon as possible. What is needed right now is the money, but we continue to work with the industry to assess its needs. The Government of Canada remains committed to doing everything possible to help our cattle producers and our industry manage through this difficult time. We have been working co-operatively with the Canadian beef industry and we will not let up one iota until we have full restoration of the integrated North American market.
I want to thank my neighbour and our friend the agriculture minister and his department because all we have to do is check the records. It is sad to say we are a BSE country. No country has ever gone from BSE to shipping products across the border as quickly as Canada has done and that is because of the good science and the cooperation of our neighbours, the United States.
The United States wants the border open except for a few people who have protectionism along the border. My neighbour, our friend the Minister of Agriculture has worked untiringly, continually on this all summer. He has done such a good job that now U.S. secretary of agriculture Ann Veneman is working to fast track this. Let us hope that comes along well and we can have the border open so we can resume some normal sense of shipping back and forth.
Topic: Government Orders