Mr. Larry McCormick (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this critical debate tonight.
As my hon. colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food previously mentioned, the government has implemented a number of immediate measures to support producers who are suffering from the effects of drought. As the minister also mentioned, the government is also committed to developing solutions to help secure the long term prosperity and profitability of Canada's farmers and the Canadian agrifood industry as a whole.
There is no question that farmers have to deal with any number of risks on a daily basis. Today we are talking about weather related risks. An equally critical long term challenge facing producers today comes from a changing marketplace, from consumers who are looking for even greater assurance about the safety and quality of their food and the environmental methods used to produce that food.
While a changing marketplace produces and presents a challenge, it also presents a tremendous opportunity because by working together we can lay the groundwork and provide the tools for this generation and future generations of farmers to compete in an increasingly tough world marketplace. It is for this very reason the government has committed, along with the provincial governments, to developing a national framework that is aimed at moving agriculture beyond crisis management to greater profitability and prosperity.
The agricultural policy framework is about meeting the challenges of the 21st century with a 21st century response. It is about securing success for the sector by giving the world's consumers what they want on the terms they want. It is about building on Canada's stellar reputation for agrifood excellence and making us the world leader in food safety and food quality, innovation and environmental responsibility.
As some members of the House will recall, the groundwork for the agricultural policy framework was laid in Whitehorse in June 2001. There federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture agreed on a comprehensive plan for integrated action around five key areas: business risk management, which is encouraging innovation and adaptation; food safety and food quality, the strengthening of on and off farm food systems; environment, allowing us to co-exist sustainably with the natural environment; innovation, ensuring our ability to succeed today and into the future; and renewal of the sector, contributing to farmers' success in the new century.
Over the past two years the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been working very hard to develop the framework and achieve consensus among the provinces, the territories, farmers, other stakeholders in the industry and all Canadians.
Under the framework, long term integrated risk management programming is being designed to provide a stable and predictable business planning environment. Farmers will have access to the tools they need to meet challenges in food safety and the environment. Science will extend beyond traditional productivity applications and deal with emerging challenges and opportunities in a bio economy. The renewal element will ensure farmers have skills and services to accept opportunities and make choices for future success.
When it comes to business risk management, we want to ensure that programming is focused on growth and improving income prospects. We want to move from reacting to income support levels to a forward thinking approach that improves a farmer's ability to manage risk over time, leading to greater predictability and profitability in the operation.
On food safety, we need a more comprehensive system that begins with on farm food safety and goes right through the entire production chain. For example, we are working toward a nation-wide assurance system that shows the world that food in Canada is safe and of the highest quality, which will respond to consumer demands.
On the environmental side, the agricultural policy framework will enhance Canada's reputation for environmental responsibility. Working with governments and using science based tools like environmental farm plans and best management practices, the framework will establish national approaches, programs and objectives. It will also adopt better farming practices to ensure clean water and clean air, improve the quality of our soil and the living conditions of our wildlife.
The responsible use of science also plays an important part in this framework. Science has tremendous potential to help us deliver on farm food safety, strengthen environmental stewardship and create new products for the benefit of farmers and the public. Science can help Canadian farmers cope with drought and manage our water supply more effectively. Already, agriculture and agri-food scientists across Canada are working on various drought related projects and sharing their findings with farmers.
Finally, there is the renewal component to the policy framework. Knowledge is the key to making producers cooperative and competitive, and their businesses profitable in this rapidly changing and complex industry. Indeed there is a bright future for all producers in the country who already have or will develop the knowledge, tools, skills and the ability to adapt and to innovate.
In recognition of the work ahead of us and to achieve these goals, this past June the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a historic investment in the Canadian agri-food industry: $5.2 billion over the next six years to build the profitability and the prosperity of our sector for the 21st century. This federal investment includes $3.4 billion to implement the agricultural policy framework, a task that will continue to involve governments, both federal and provincial, and the industry.
As the recent Speech from the Throne said, implementing the framework is a key priority for the government and the dollars are there to back up this commitment.
Over the past 18 months, governments have made tremendous progress toward achieving consensus on the path ahead. At this point the vast majority of provincial and territorial governments have signed an umbrella accord that sets out the common goals and the key policy directions of the framework. The agreement is open to signing by the remaining provinces. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food is confident that they will all sign and we welcome that.
Much hard work is ahead of us however. The detailed specifics of programs and measures now have to be finalized. Over the coming months the government will ensure through ongoing partnership and consultation with the industry and negotiations between governments that the program specifics help us to meet the framework's objectives.
In closing, in the context of this important debate on the drought, the agricultural policy framework will help Canadian farmers to better manage risks of all types to meet the demands of the marketplace and to be profitable and competitive on the world stage. By equipping our industry to be the number one producers of safe, innovative and environmentally responsible agricultural products, we are going to make Canada the first choice for buyers of food and agricultural products worldwide.
The agricultural policy framework will be a win-win solution for Canada. Canadian farmers will benefit, Canadian consumers will benefit and the Canadian economy will be stronger as a whole.
Topic: Emergency Debate