Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

April 07, 2006 22:33 ET

Our commitment to Canadian farmers: By Chuck Strahl, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 7, 2006) - Canadians voted for change on January 23 and that change includes a new commitment to securing a prosperous future for Canadian farmers.

The Government of Canada confirmed that commitment in the Speech from the Throne by pledging to respond to the short-term needs of agricultural producers, to work closely with producers and our provincial and territorial partners to develop programs and strategies that will bring long-term sustainability to the industry.

The challenges facing our farmers are not new and will not be resolved overnight. However, we are already moving forward.

I have traveled to every province meeting with provincial agriculture ministers and industry officials. So far, I have met with 240 industry representatives to discuss pressing agricultural issues and held 11 roundtables devoted to these questions. Prime Minister Harper and I met with farm leaders in Ottawa on Wednesday prior to the farmers' rally.

My first action as Minister was to immediately improve and accelerate payments through the $755 million Grains and Oilseeds Payment Program. To this point, we have sent out almost 74,000 cheques worth more than $440 million. These funds are continuing to go out and nearly all of the committed funds will be in producers' accounts in time for spring planting.

We also want to replace the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program, and we need our provincial and territorial partners to come along with us on this change. We want to separate the disaster relief component from the income stabilization portion and establish an income stabilization program that is easier to use, bankable, and more responsive to producer needs. We have made changes to the program that reduce the financial burden of producer participation in the program by replacing the deposit requirement with a fee. We will continue to consult with producers about how to make further changes that will address their requirements in a timely and effective manner.

In addition, this Government is committed to increasing the annual federal investment in agriculture by $500 million for each of the next five years, resulting in $2.5 billion in additional funding.

All that being said, we understand that the long-term challenges facing the agriculture sector are not going to be resolved simply by throwing money at them. Governments can best help farmers by developing domestic and international systems that allow farmers to earn their livings from the marketplace - and not from government assistance programs.

That is why the ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations are such a priority. It is only by leveling the international playing field for agricultural trade that Canadian producers will be able to compete effectively and have fair access to markets around the world. Canada has world-class farmers, but they've been butting their heads against other countries' world-class subsidies and tariffs for many years. We are going to push hard to reduce those barriers and tariffs and to enhance export opportunities for all agricultural products.

This Government also strongly supports Canada's supply management system and we are committed to aggressively defending it in the WTO negotiations. Canada faces significant pressures on issues of key importance to supply management, but we will fight to ensure that it is Canada - not other countries - which decides how to market its products, including through orderly marketing systems such as supply management.

We will also increase domestic markets for Canadian agricultural, including through our plan to require an average of five-per-cent renewable fuel content - such as ethanol or bio-diesel - in motor vehicle fuel by 2010. This environmentally friendly program could require as much as eight million tonnes of grains, oilseeds and biomass, creating new economic opportunities for producers. We will also seek to expand the possibilities for producers by investing in science and innovation.

It is through such innovative programs and close consultation with producers and our government partners that we will be able to create an environment that allows our hard-working farmers, their families, and the communities they live in, to enjoy a sustainable and prosperous future.

Contact Information

    (613) 759-7972