Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to withdraw. I did not mean it to apply in any disparaging way to the minister, but I say there is an inference in the legislation which is not correct. The minister has told us he is going to establish a base price and that afterwards he is going to take it upon himself to set guaranteed prices either above or below the base price. I am not convinced that the committee he intends to set up will have very much if anything to say about the guaranteed price. So the situation may arise where the consumers of this country will be led to believe that the farmer is getting 110 per cent or 120 per cent of the base price, in consequence of which they will certainly be much concerned. They are going to believe that the farmer is getting 120 per cent of a just price, when actually that price will be below a parity price.
The minister suggested that the Agricultural Prices Support Act was inadequate, and that any price which was set was an ad hoc price, as he put it. I suggest that the bill before us now still administers guaranteed prices in exactly the same way. Any prices fixed under it will be ad hoc prices, for the reason that the present formula is not tied to a parity price or to any formula, so they will have to be fixed of necessity on the basis of a decision by the minister, and that kind of decision is nothing but an ad hoc decision.
The 80 per cent floor with regard to the products the bill does affect is calculated over a 10-year moving average of market prices. The minister did not tell the house that this 80 per cent floor, based on present day prices, is still less than 70 per cent of parity prices. He was very anxious to make it clear that in the 10-year moving average we would get the advantage of four of the best years agriculture has seen in this country for some time. But we are going to lose those four years because of the fact that this is a moving average; we are going to take up a new year and drop one of the old years until, in four years time, we will lose entirely the advantage of those four good years of which the minister is so proud.
Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as well as other organizations, has done a very comprehensive survey of what is implied in this legislation so far as the 10-year moving average is concerned. It has come up with a series of figures dealing with the nine products covered by the bill to show what is going to happen. Take hogs, for instance. The average price in 1957 for grade B1 hogs was $30.37 at Toronto. The C.F.A., who have been suggesting over the years that the government should adopt its agricultural policy which favours 70 per cent of parity- a policy which has been frowned on over the years by other agricultural organizations- points out that its 70 per cent of parity formula is far ahead of the government's proposed measure; that its price of 70 per cent of parity amounts to $23.51 as against the government's suggested 1958 price of $23.36. Then the organization goes on to say that should the average price in the next 4 years apply as in the last four years, that is $27.93, the minimum guaranteed 10-year average market price for 1962 would be $22.40 compared with the 1958 estimated price of $23.36.
The same is true in the case of butter. The average price in 1957 was 60.6 cents. The C.F.A. proposal is for a price of 50.1 cents. Eighty per cent of the ten-year moving average as presently suggested by the government is 49.6 cents. The C.F.A. goes on to say that if the price of butter in the next four years remains as it has in the last four years, by 1962 the price for butter under this proposition will have dropped to 48.4 cents.
I am not going to go through the whole list of commodities, but there is a similar drop for each. Good steers at Toronto in 1957 averaged $18.95 on the market. Under the C.F.A. proposal $17.62 would be the minimum price, but the minimum price for 1958 under this legislation will be $17.44. The C.F.A. points out that if the price of steers on the market over the next four years remains at about the same level as it has in the last four years then by 1962, according to this moving ten-year scale, the price will have dropped to $15.89.
I am sure the minister will say, "Well, we will introduce our guaranteed price if we think the price does not represent production costs," but of course that price is not calculated in the market price, which is the price on which the ten-year average is computed.
We witnessed an interesting spectacle the other day. Eggs were selling on the market in western Canada for something in the neighbourhood of 28 cents a dozen to producers. I am receiving letters every day
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Agricultural Products-Price Stabilization from people complaining that they are forced to accept 28.5 cents a dozen for eggs. When the minister was questioned about this he said, "Yes, we are guaranteeing the packer 38 cents and have asked him to pay 30 cents to the producer." However, the packer said it was impossible to operate with an 8 cent margin and make a profit. The minister rose in this house and said, "I have attempted to make an arrangement with the packer." In effect he said to the packer, "You pay the farmer 30 cents, and you and I will work out some arrangement to compensate you for the loss you suggest you have to take over the 8 cents."
Under this measure I suggest there is nothing to stop the processors from driving the price on the market down to the 80 per cent floor, and that is where it is going to go. The minister has told members of this house and the farmers of Canada over and over again that he realizes there is no parity principle involved in the pricing formula he is going to employ, but he says, "You will just have to trust me and the Conservative government. I am going to see to it that the farmer is going to get his cost of production. He is going to get something in the neighbourhood of parity prices, if you will just trust me."
He then spent a considerable amount of time criticizing the only system on this continent that ever attempted to give the farmer a parity price, the United States farm program. How does the minister think the farmer can place any trust in a minister of the government who says, "I am going to give you a parity price," and then spends most of his allotted time running down and discrediting the only government on this continent that ever made a real effort to give the farmer a parity price?
What about this board that is going to be set up to advise the minister in regard to production costs and those commodities that should be supported? On reading the measure very carefully is it the duty of the board to make sure that the prescribed price or the guaranteed price bears a fair relationship-to parity? No; to the base price. That is the function of this board. What products is it going to recommend to the minister for support? Only those products the minister tells the board he thinks should oe supported. In effect the duty of this board is to do what the minister tells it to do, nothing more and nothing less.
I wonder why the minister did not see fit to include western grain in this support measure. Does he think the western wheat, barley and oats producer is now getting a price that bears a fair relationship to his
cost of production and therefore does not warrant having those products supported? Surely the minister knows as well as I do that the farmer's cost of production has risen by 50 per cent and continues to rise, while the prices for these grain products have fallen by over 21 per cent during the last few years.
When I was home during the Christmas recess I visited the Massey Harris dealer at Tisdale, where I live. He told me that a new model 92 self-propelled combine will sell next year, if anyone is gullible enough to buy one, for $8,000. This is a machine that sold for $3,450 in 1946 when my brothers and I bought one at that price. The minister is going to have to take a close look at the proposition of supporting grain prices in western Canada.
What about soy beans and sugar beets? What is going to happen to the sugar beet grower whose product is already being supported under the Agricultural Prices Support Act? As soon as this measure becomes the law of the land he will be left out in the cold, because the Agricultural Prices Support Act will not operate after the adoption of the measure that is before us.
"A forward price," said the minister, "on the basis of one year." What kind of a forward price is a one-year forward price for the man who is engaged in livestock production? None at all. It is not worth the paper it is written on. I would suggest that the minister should either expand that forward price principle or take it out of the bill altogether, because it is absolutely useless, just as useless as the committee he is going to set up. I would also suggest that clause 5 of the bill relating to this committee should be deleted entirely, unless the minister is prepared to give this committee more power than he proposes to give it at the present time.
If this bill is going to mean anything I suggest that it must have as its fundamental the principle of parity prices. That is the only thing that is going to give the farmer any security on the land. It is not a question of giving the farmer a profit on his operation; that is not envisaged in a parity price. It simply means that there shall be a fair relationship between his cost of production and the price he receives for the commodity he produces.
If the minister is so anxious to have an advisory board composed of representatives of agricultural producers, then I urge that he accept the proposal this group is putting forward and have the agriculture committee of this house meet and invite the farm organizations to come down here and advise the minister as to the kind of legislation which
they would like to have a hand in administering. That is the only fair, reasonable and logical approach to this whole question.
Subtopic: MEASURE TO PROVIDE GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CERTAIN COMMODITIES, ETC.