Hon. Olio E. Lang (Minister without Portfolio):
Mr. Chairman, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in this house today to speak on a resolution which is of such importance to prairie farmers in particular. The amendments which this resolution proposes are very important at the present time, and I hope that everyone in the house will agree fairly quickly that this is indeed the case.
Perhaps it would be appropriate for me at this stage to touch briefly upon some of the history of the Prairie Grain Advance Payments Act and to describe some of its uses in the past. This act was proclaimed on November 25, 1957 and through it cash has been advanced interest free to grain producers in western Canada against the security of threshed farm-stored grain. This has meant that producers have been able to receive cash for their products when there has been a delay in delivering to country elevators. From the time the program began, approximately 21 per cent of the eligible farmers have each year taken advantage of this act. The total cash advances over the nearly 11 year period have amounted to about $450 million. Each year on an average approximately $40 million has been advanced in this fashion.
October 4, 1968
Prairie Grain Advance Payments Act
In the 1967-68 crop year the total exceeded $47 million in advances to 45,811 producers. The recovery rate has been particularly good over the period this scheme has been in effect. Something in excess of 99.5 per cent of all advances has been recovered. In this scheme the government has borne the interest charges involved, and the total interest to the end of July of 1968 has amounted to $7.5 million. The government's share of default has come to a total of $49,845. Both figures cover the 11 year period during which the act has been in effect.
It is interesting to note that it has been generally the smaller producer who has benefited from the act. In only one year, the last year, has the average advance for all producers exceeded $1,000. In this last year the figure was $1,032.
I would now like to touch briefly on the main features of the proposed amendments to the act. The maximum advance under the act will be increased from $3,000 to $6,000. Comparatively few producers have sufficient acreage to allow them to benefit from this increase alone, and to ensure that the smaller producers will benefit from the act the rate of advance per bushel is to be dealt with. This will change the present rates so that in place of 50 cents per bushel for wheat an advance of $1 per bushel will be available. For oats, the figure of 20 cents will be changed to 40 cents per bushel, and for barley 35 cents will become 70 cents. With these new rates, these producers will be able to obtain double the amount they could have obtained under the existing act.
[DOT] (3:00 p.m.)
In a subsidiary change, exceptions relating to the unit quota or the initial quota will be removed from the act. The unit quota, of course, allows each producer, regardless of his acreage, to make a specific initial delivery of grain. In the existing act, grain which a farmer has on hand to fill his unit quota is not counted in determining his eligibility for an advance. In the new act, the distinction between unit and regular quotas will be removed. Because no change is contemplated in the schedule for repayment of advances, the burden of repayment relative to the advance will be lessened. For various reasons, the unit delivery will also then be counted for repayment purposes, as it is for eligibility. I think this is a most important point, that there is no change in the schedule for repayment, and I emphasize it even though it is clearly not an amendment to the act. Because
of the increase in advances, the lack of any change in the repayment schedule will be of distinct advantage to the producer.
I want to assure hon. members that in the proposed amendments there will be provision for those producers who may already have applied for an advance in this crop year. These producers will be able to apply for additional advances which will put them in the same position as a fellow producer who has not yet made use of the act. Other amendments of a more routine nature will not be enlarged upon by me here. Of course, there will be opportunities to discuss them at a later stage. They are generally designed to facilitate administration of the act in the circumstances of the larger advances which I have described.
The Canadian Wheat Board administers this act on behalf of the government and the elevator companies and their agents extend the advances to the individual producers on application. The act has functioned very well these past years. I want to express the appreciation of the government to the Canadian Wheat Board and to the various elevator companies for the effective manner in which this act has been administered.
The grain producers, too, deserve credit for their co-operation and a particular word of praise for their repayment record. This does not surprise those of us who know the character of the Canadian farmer, but I draw it to the attention of less fortunate members. I look forward, Mr. Chairman, to the approval of these amendments so that this act, so important to the farmers, can be brought more into line with present conditions.
Topic: PRAIRIE GRAIN ADVANCE PAYMENTS ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO INCREASE AMOUNT, RATE OF CALCULATION, ETC.