Or limiting it, I agree. The government's action in supporting pork, beef and butter was particularly effective in Grey county because those, with apples, are our main farm products. In the last six or eight months many farmers have come to me without any prompting to state that if the government had not stepped in and supported hogs at 26 cents, the bottom would have simply fallen out of the market. I think this government has convinced the farmer that farm prices will never again be allowed to drop to disaster levels.
We all know that there is no easy solution to this problem of sagging beef prices. Even at today's prices the Canadian farmer is getting the best prices in the world for his beef. It is obvious that it would be difficult to support beef, either by means of a floor price program or with subsidies, unless the United States border were closed. I have heard no one suggest that such a drastic step be taken.
Some people believe we are now passing through the worst period so far as the price
of cattle is concerned, and that as soon as the cattle are on the grass the markets both here and in the United States will strengthen. I sincerely hope so. I am anxious to hear what the minister has to say about that. I recall that last year, when hogs were selling at 20 and 21 cents, he predicted that within three weeks the market would be 27 cents. His prediction was exactly correct.
The farmer is the first to admit what the minister stated on Monday night, that there almost had to be an adjustment of price in the cattle market. From 1946 to 1951 the price of beef rose swiftly and steadily, and without doubt some farmers made remarkable profits. These high prices, of course, encouraged production, and I think we are in about the same position this year in so far as cattle are concerned as we were with hogs last year. I know that in Grey county the cattle population has been steadily increasing in the last 18 months. For instance, on June 1, 1952, there were 148,600 cattle in the county, and six months later this figure had increased to 161,500. The farmer knows also that from 1946 to 1951 he was capitalizing on the fact that the Canadian dollar was selling at a discount in the United States. Today the opposite is true.
When the officers of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture met the cabinet last March, they said that if they were to pick one overriding thought out of the discussion during their convention, it would be that agriculture does not feel secure in its economic position. I believe that is the thinking which prompted the telegram sent by the Grey county council. The farmers are not particularly disgruntled. They are reasonable people. They know there must be ups and downs in the market in a free-enterprise society. They have confidence in this government, but this combination of falling beef prices and rising costs has them worried, together with the fear that agriculture, as a group, may be lagging behind the industrial sections of our country. The farmers want to be assured again by this government that in this period of our country's great growth and expansion the position of agriculture will be maintained as an important and basic pillar in our economy.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE