Ms. Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier—Maskinongé, NDP)
|| That, in the opinion of the House, the government should respect its promise to dairy and cheese producers of Quebec and Canada who will be affected by the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union, by: (a) revealing details without delay related to the compensation that will be paid; (b) providing for an implementation period for the agreement that is as long as possible; (c) putting an end to the circumvention of tariff quotas and the misclassification of products at the border; (d) maintaining high quality standards by imposing the same production and processing requirements on imported products; and (e) committing to provide support for commercialization.
She said: Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for seconding my motion.
I am proud to rise in the House today to move Motion No. 496 in support of dairy and cheese producers.
My motion has already received the support of the Fédération de la relève agricole du Québec, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Producteurs de lait du Québec, the Association des artisans fromagers, the UPA, the Solidarité rurale du Québec and the Association des transporteurs de lait du Québec.
My motion calls on the government to keep its promise to producers who will be affected by the results of the negotiations for the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Europe.
Over the past few months, I have met with many stakeholders in the agricultural industry, particularly those in the dairy and cheese sector. They could not believe what happened when the agreement in principle was signed. Having followed the negotiations in the media, I never would have imagined such an outcome.
The Conservatives negotiated this trade agreement in secret, favouring certain sectors at the expense of dairy and cheese producers. The NDP is open to trade agreements, but we would never turn our backs on the dairy and cheese sector.
The Union des producteurs agricoles supports my motion and, like me, it was very surprised by the agreement in principle that was negotiated. The UPA's senior vice-president, Pierre Lemieux, had this to say:
|| People are being kept in the dark. We do not know what kind of help we are going to get. We are being kept in the dark.
It is true. Producers did not know that their industry was going to be sacrificed in October and, today, they still do not know what they can expect to get in the way of compensation.
This year is the International Year of Family Farming. The time has come not only to move forward and foster a dialogue on the future of our farms but also to recognize the hard work that is done by our producers and farmers.
In supporting my motion, the government will be taking a step in the right direction. My motion responds to calls by dairy producers across the country. Their requests are quite reasonable and justified. The government promised compensation. Now it just has to unveil the details of that promise.
Dairy producers have faith in their supply management system. The system costs nothing, absolutely nothing, to the government and the producers are not receiving any subsidies. The producers would like to have a compensation structure that would protect the supply management system.
In Canada, our dairy and cheese industry is thriving. We have reason to be very proud of its success these past few years and the quality and diversity of its products.
Who here in this room does not enjoy our Canadian cheese? Canada produces more than 1,050 types of cheese, which are listed in the Canadian Cheese Directory. We produce 133,200 tonnes of specialty cheeses.
Quebec has always been a leader in cheese production in North America. At the end of the 19th century, the first cheese school in North America was established in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. Since 1893, the École de laiterie de Saint-Hyacinthe, now known as the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire, has been working on improving cheese technologies and production while conducting research in chemistry, bacteriology and nutrition.
In the 1980s, a return to the land and traditional values breathed new life into the production of fine cheeses. The arrival in Quebec of a Swiss craftsman-cheesemonger, Fritz Kaiser, sparked the passion of Quebec producers for traditional European cheeses. Many focus on manufacturing speciality cheeses, and their products are starting to win prizes in international competitions.
In the 1990s, micro cheese-makers started offering a wide variety of artisanal cheese throughout the different regions of Quebec, including several raw-milk cheeses.
Today, the producers are enjoying the fruit of those efforts because the fine cheeses of Quebec offer consumers recognized quality and remarkable diversity.
More than one Canadian cheese has won an award at international competitions, such as the World Championship Cheese Contest, which is held in Wisconsin. The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, a biannual competition held by Dairy Farmers of Canada, showcases the richness and quality of Canadian cheeses.
The Fromagerie Domaine Féodal, in Berthierville, in my riding, won third place at the American Cheese Society competition in 2011, and first place at the British Empire Cheese Show. Guy Dessureault and Lise Mercier, from Domaine Féodal, make exceptional products. I presented my motion during a press conference at their cheese factory last week. I visited their facilities and had the opportunity to taste their delicious cheeses. I want to sincerely thank them for their warm welcome and their support.
One of their best-known cheeses is the Guillaume Tell, a soft cheese steeped in ice cider. They told me that they invested more than $179,000 in creating this cheese. That does not include the time that Lise and Guy put into this effort.
We must recognize that cheese producers invest a lot of time and money in their businesses. They have worked very hard to create their products and market them, as well as to develop the fine cheese market. They are so very disappointed that European cheeses are going to be invading their market. For each European cheese that enters the grocery store, one of our own cheeses will lose its place on the shelves.
My motion will ensure that our cheese producers will have the support they need to compete with European cheeses. Guy effectively summed up the sector's demands as follows: “I want us to be able to earn a living and be smart about it”. It is as simple as that.
We must understand that under the agreement in principle, the European Union will have greater access to the Canadian cheese market, which is supply managed. That directly undercuts one of the pillars of supply management, the control of imports, and jeopardizes the effectiveness of the system. This potential agreement is detrimental to Canada's dairy producers. In fact, it would deprive Canadian dairy producers and their communities of some of their revenue, to the benefit of the European industry. The economic development of communities and any associated jobs would be affected.
Marcel Groleau, president of the Union des producteurs agricoles points out that “cheese factories that were planning investments will reconsider. They are going to be cautious and wait to see the repercussions of the agreement”.
That is just one consequence of this agreement, and it must not be minimized. It is vital to continue supporting this industry, which, at the same time, supports the survival of our farms and farm labour. Producers reinvest in their farms and support local suppliers and businesses, which contributes to the Canadian economy as a whole.
Claire Bolduc, from Solidarité rurale du Québec, supported my motion. She raised two important points: this agreement undermines the supply management system and creates a dangerous precedent for future free trade negotiations. The government is talking out of both sides of its mouth when it says that it protects supply management while weakening one of its pillars.
She also explained how the sale of European cheeses in Canada will affect our communities. Thousands of our cheese factories across the country create jobs, wealth and diversity in our communities. She noted that if we do not do something, an entire industry and the pride of the rural economy will be at risk. She is right. Our families, our communities, the use of our land, our services and our identity will be at risk. We must give our cheese and dairy producers the tools they need to remain competitive and mitigate the adverse effects of the agreement.
The Conservatives promised to support supply management, but the conclusion of negotiations with Europe has undermined it. They then wanted to calm things down by promising to compensate producers. It is now time to provide the details. That is what I am asking them to do today with my motion.
The dairy market is one of the most unstable in the world. Canada is lucky to have a stable, reliable dairy market thanks to its dynamic supply management system, a system that has proven its worth. This stability enables farmers to reinvest in their farms and to earn a living from the market without relying on government support.
Supply management is not a subsidy. Canada's dairy producers get no help from the government. However, in Europe, producers get state subsidies that can be as high as 60%. Our dairy producers are not on a level playing field with European producers.
Increased access to 17,700 tonnes of European cheese in Canadian markets will have significant repercussions. Canada's milk output will fall. Subsidized European cheese entering the market will compete with Canadian cheese. There will be increased competition between Canadian cheese and artisan cheese. Some of the growth in the market, which dairy producers have been investing in for a long time, will be lost.
Granting European cheese greater access to our market will not benefit producers, communities or the regions, particularly not when Europe already accounts for a significant proportion of the Canadian cheese market.
The tariff rate quota already allows for the importation of 20,412 tonnes of cheese duty-free. Two-thirds of the tariff rate quote are allocated to the European Union. This concession in the agreement will have no impact on retail prices because the vast majority of European cheese already enters Canada duty-free.
The NDP will support an agreement with Europe that is in Canada's best interests, an agreement that enables us to increase our exports and our opportunities to do business without compromising our government's ability to protect Canadians' interests and to protect the public.
We are nevertheless concerned about the potential impact of the agreement on the dairy and cheese industry in Quebec and Canada. That is why I am asking the government to keep its promise to dairy producers and the cheese industry in Quebec and the rest of Canada, which will be affected by the economic and trade agreement.
My motion would mitigate the impact of the agreement on the dairy and cheese industry and support Canada's supply management system, which ensures stable, fair pricing.
The NDP supports producers. We want the government to walk the talk and protect Canada and its dairy and cheese industry. The government must not harm our flourishing cheese industry. If it does, it will lose the industry's contribution to local economies.
I am ready to answer my colleagues' questions.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support Motion No. 496. Every day, the innovative dairy producers of Canada put safe and nutritious foods on our tables, while creating jobs and adding value to our economy in rural and urban areas of Canada.
The industry makes an important contribution to our economy with nearly $22 billion in both farm gate and processor sales. That has created thousands of jobs for Canadians.
This economic success is due in large part to our hard-working farm families and Canada's supply management system.
This system has served Canadian farmers, processors and consumers well over the years, which is why our government continues to support it.
At the same time, we are pursuing the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history. Canadian farmers depend on export markets to remain competitive and stimulate economic growth across the country. Our government and our farmers know that Canada's balanced trade position is working.
Over the past six years, we have concluded free trade agreements with 10 countries; announced an agreement in principle on a free trade agreement between Canada and the 28 countries of the European Union; and concluded negotiations with South Korea, Canada's first commercial presence on Asian soil. We are also in the process of negotiating agreements with nearly 30 countries.
This work is paying off for our economy. Last year was the best export year on record for the agriculture and food industry in Canada, with over $50 billion in trade activities for the first time in our country's history.
From dairy products to poultry, livestock to oilseeds, our government will continue to support a strong agricultural industry in Canada because our economy and our well-being depend on it.
As members know, our government recently reached an agreement in principle with the European Union on a new free trade agreement. It is the most comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement since NAFTA.
With the Canada-EU trade agreement and NAFTA, Canada will be one of the few countries in the world with preferential access to the two largest world economies, which represent nearly 800 million of the wealthiest consumers in the world.
In total, the Canada-EU trade agreement should generate $1.5 billion in earnings a year for Canada's agricultural sector. Canadian producers will have preferential access to the biggest and most lucrative market in the world.
Let me repeat: the Canada-EU trade agreement will retain the three main pillars of supply management—production, import limits and pricing.
In every trade agreement it has signed, our government has clearly indicated to its trade partners that it supports and protects its supply management system, and it will continue to do so.
We are working in the best interests of Canadians and farmers. The government will strongly defend the interests of supply managed sectors in all of its international trade negotiations.
That is why we are pleased to support this motion. I want to point out that we have already taken measures that address some of the key aspects of the motion.
The first part of the motion relates to compensation for the industry for losses incurred as a result of the increased access for cheese under the Canada EU free trade agreement. As publicly stated by the Prime Minister, our government is fully committed to monitoring the impact from the implementation of the agreement and, if needed, to provide compensation should a negative impact be realized.
We have been consulting with industry stakeholders on this issue over the past five months, and we are continuing to do so. This includes provincial dairy producer and processor associations, as well as individual cheeses processors, provincial governments, cheese importers and downstream stakeholders.
With respect to the urgency expressed in the motion, we are very focused on this issue and expect to have more details in the future.
As the motion states, the government has every intention of respecting its promise to dairy farmers that are affected by the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. Our goal is to develop an approach that will effectively address impacts and ensure we can effectively monitor the impacts as the agreement is implemented.
Regarding the motion's second point on the implementation period, Canada continues to press for the longest implementation period possible for the Canadian cheese tariff rate quota to help to mitigate as much as possible the potential impact on Canadian dairy and cheese producers.
Regarding the third point on tightening up of controls at the border, we fully recognize that import controls are important to maintain the integrity of the supply management system. We are committed to ensuring that importers play by the rules.
For example, late last year we took action to address a loophole regarding the importation of cheese through pizza topping kits. We clarified the rules to ensure that for this category of products there would be consistent application at the border. This measure has been very effective.
A recent global agricultural information network report from the USDA on the impact of trade action on pizza topping kits showed $5.5 million worth of pizza kits entering Canada per month from the U.S. in 2013. That amount rapidly fell to $1 million per month after we closed the loophole.
In addition, it is important to note that the Canada-EU trade agreement in principle underscores our government's commitment to ensuring that our border controls are doing their job.
Regarding the fourth point on production standards of imported goods, the government has already acted to ensure that imports into Canada meet our high quality standards. All food sold in Canada is subject to the Food and Drugs Act, whether it is imported or produced locally. In addition, dairy products imported into Canada are required to meet the dairy products regulations.
While food production and processing requirements may not be exactly the same across foreign jurisdictions, Canada recognizes that the food safety systems of our major trading partners, such as the European Union, have equivalent food safety outcomes.
This system of recognizing equivalency allows goods to be imported into Canada, provided that the goods continue to meet Canadian food safety standards and regulatory requirements. Of course, it allows our products to be exported.
A year and a half ago, we passed a Safe Food for Canadians Act. Under this landmark legislation, we are proposing regulations that promote equivalency in food safety outcomes for domestic, imported and exported food products.
Finally, Motion No. 496 calls on the government to provide support for commercialization of innovative dairy products. We are already addressing this through our $3 billion, 5-year Growing Forward framework.
Growing Forward 2 is helping Canada's dairy industry capture new markets through a number of key initiatives, including the $12 million dairy research cluster, which almost doubles our previous investment under Growing Forward 1, focusing on milk's human nutrition and health benefits, sustainable milk production and genetic improvement, and investments of close to $1 million to help Canadian dairy farmers meet consumer demands for traceability, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and food safety and quality.
My message today is this. Our government has always been, and continues to be, committed to keeping the Canadian supply management sector strong and profitable. Our long-standing support for supply management has not changed. We will continue to promote a balanced trade agenda for all sectors of our economy, to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
We will continue to drive innovation and growth through our investments under Growing Forward 2 because, as we all know, a strong agriculture industry means a strong economy.
Our government puts farmers first, and we are pleased to support the motion.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal Party, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak in support of the motion. We see the merit in having a vote on this very important issue.
A number of weeks ago I had the opportunity, just out outside of Winnipeg and literally minutes away from my own home, to take a tour of a dairy farm. At this farm, milk production was under the supply management system.
When we have the opportunity to take tours of this nature, it gives us a better appreciation of just how important supply management is and the systems on which our farmers are very dependent. They can be so very effective for all of us.
As I put forward in a question, Canada has an excellent, world-class, quality product through supply management. It may be cheeses, milk or other agricultural products. At the same time, we can ensure that the farmer receives a decent return for the service being provided and that we have enough of that product for consumers from coast to coast to coast.
I listened to the government representative, and there are a few points I would like to try to address in my limited time on this important issue. One of them deals specifically with the idea that the government says “trust us”, and that we do not have anything to worry about because it will be supportive of our cheese manufacturers, our dairy industry, and supply management as a whole.
I have a difficult time trusting the Conservative government on the issue. It was not that long ago, for example, when a Conservative government felt that the Canadian Wheat Board had a valuable role to play in the Prairies. In certain situations, the government said that to the grain farmers. It said “trust us”, that it believed in the Wheat Board and would never get rid of it”.
Mr. Pierre Lemieux: Look at the record harvest. What a good harvest we had this year.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, that has nothing to with the record harvest. It has everything to do with this whole “trust us” attitude that the government proclaims to the farmers. Its actions do not reflect what it asks Canadians to do, which is to trust it.
Now we have the very important issue of supply management. We know the government has been soft at best in affirming strong support toward supply management.
When we look at what has taken place with the comprehensive economic trade agreement in principle between Canada and the European Union, some red flags and concerns have been raised regarding certain industries in Canada. One of those industries, specifically, is the cheese industry.
The Liberal Party as a whole has been exceptionally supportive of freer trade and the idea of free trade agreements. However, at the same time, it has been encouraging and calling on the government to be more transparent in exactly what it is saying abroad. What is the government attempting to negotiate? To what degree is it putting our farmers at risk? Canadians have these concerns.
I am pleased to hear that the government seems to want to support the motion, and that is a good thing. The problem is that it would not be the first time the government has voted in favour of a motion and then, months later, seems to contradict it. All we have to do is take a look at the fair elections act to exemplify that.
I am grateful that at the moment the government members seem to be somewhat supportive of supply management.
However, I am an optimist. I believe there might be hope at the end of the day for the Conservatives in making that solid commitment to supply management. I would like to hear that commitment more often. I say that because I am genuinely concerned about industries, not only in my home province of Manitoba, but, as pointed out in the motion, the province of Quebec and in fact all over Canada as well. There has been an immense benefit.
It was interesting what we heard about the agreement between Canada and the European Union, and it is important that we realize it is far from being complete. I suspect there might come a day when we will achieve that free trade agreement with the European Union. Hopefully, if things go well over the next couple of years, it could be a Liberal administration signing off on it. In that situation, supply management would be well taken care of.
Members over there are a little sensitive on this issue. Maybe they see the writing on the wall.
However, it is not only the Liberal Party that has raised the issue of ensuring that people are aware of the ramifications. Some interesting points were raised by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. We need to have more discussion on this. European Union access will total 31,971 tonnes, or 7.5% of the Canadian cheese market.
I am very proud of a local company we have in Manitoba, Bothwell Cheese. The company came into being in 1936. The member for Provencher gave me the thumbs up. He is very familiar with Bothwell Cheese. If one lives in Manitoba, one has to be proud of that company. It is the best cheese in the world. In fact, I think it is their marble cheddar cheese that we could honestly say is the best product in the world. We are very proud of that fact. Our cheese manufacturers can excel, not only in Canada but also abroad.
However, many cheese companies still are concerned about the percentage of cheese and want to maintain as much as possible the percentage of the current market in Canada. Total imports will reach 38,171 tonnes, or about 9% of the current Canadian consumption. It is a significant increase. How is the government responding to this issue? There are a number of issues that have to be taken into consideration when we start to talk about these kinds of numbers. We are talking about jobs, quality of life for farmers and quality of product ultimately.
We can look at the financial compensation. There are all sorts of hidden tariffs out there. We need to get a better sense of what the government is talking about when it is sitting at those trade negotiations. When we start talking about these kinds of numbers, we really need more transparency. We want the government to be more transparent in what we hear from the European trade negotiations, discussions and so forth.
There is serious concern from our dairy farmers with the equivalent of farm quota cuts. There are serious concerns about the fine cheese market in Canada and the rationalization that will have to take place with our dairy herds.
So much can be said about this important issue.
The Liberal Party supports the motion. We are concerned about the government's lack of a solid commitment to supply management. We want more transparency on the issue of negotiations.
Mr. Malcolm Allen (Welland, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is always great to rise in this place, but it is even better when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture is fully supportive of the motion my colleague has introduced. This is a good day. I am not sure about the chair of the agriculture committee, because we still have to hear from him. A little bird whispered in my ear that perhaps he may say complimentary things as well. We await his remarks and anticipate that he also will endorse the motion, because it is a good one.
There are multiple reasons for the motion, but one of the most important is to let cheese producers and dairy farmers across this country know that we understand what the impact of CETA would mean for them. Mr. Wally Smith, the president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said that for dairy farmers, the impact would be about 2.25% of quota. Those of us who understand the supply system know what quota means. For folks who are listening to us today who are not dairy farmers, that translates to $60,000 in lost potential income for each dairy farmer across this country. That is a significant amount of money, and it is troubling to them. That is what today's motion is meant to address. It is to get the government to recognize that it needs a timeline that would allow for the adjustment.
The motion proposes a couple of other things.
My colleagues have pointed to investments in cheese production across this country. Some of that investment has happened in the Niagara region. A new cheese producer opened up in the Niagara region a number of years ago. All members would say that cheese producers in their regions are the best, and of course they are. Why would they not be? If people want to find fine cheese, they should come to Niagara. They could also enjoy the finest wine this country has to offer. Not only that, but the finest ice wine in the world can also be found in the Niagara region, and some great cheese could be purchased to go along with that. I would highly recommend that all of my colleagues come to Niagara, sample the cheese, and have a bottle of wine while they are at it. If they come in September, they would be there when we have the Niagara Wine Festival. There would be cheese, of course. This would support local dairy producers, because cheese producers buy milk from local producers.
As my friends across the way on the agriculture committee know, that is why the system works as well as it does. It is not just the three pillars. It is about those producers knowing they have a source of income and spending it within their regions. They buy all the inputs they need for their farms locally, whether that be insurance products or a number of different services, which holds that economy together.
As many of us in the agricultural field know, lenders love dairy farmers. Why is that? It is because they know that dairy farmers have a steady stream of income. They do not worry about whether the commodity market is up one day for soy beans, or this way for canola, and that way for wheat. They understand that in the supply managed system for dairy, dairy farmers have a predictable income stream. Lenders lend money to them because they know they are going to be repaid. They are not taking the same sort of risks they do with others. Perhaps there are other alternatives for farmers in riskier areas. Lenders tell me and my colleagues when we tour this country that it is great for them, because they have a solid foundation in their financial institutions when they provide commercial loans to dairy farmers.
Dairy farmers have the sense that this is a one-way street. We are waiting for details on CETA. We are constantly asking the government to share more information than what it has to date. We continue to ask for that, because one can only make a reasonable decision when one has the details.
We heard today during question period the Minister of International Trade say, “Stay tuned”. We have heard that a couple of times. It reminds me of an old advert, but that would give away how old I am.
The government is saying that dairy farmers and cheese producers could enter that market. There are cheeses from Canada in the market now in the EU. We cannot sell them for less than we sell them here under the supply system, so that makes them, at a certain price, not necessarily competitive. However, one of the biggest impediments for our cheese makers over there are geographical indications, or what is known as GI.
The Europeans have a fondness for geographical indications, which we do not have to the same degree. We do not express ourselves, when it comes to food, with geographical indications. We may know that those are Quebec cheeses, but we do not trademark them or label them the way Europeans do. Foods like feta can only come from feta. Therefore, if that becomes one of the geographical indications, we cannot actually make feta here. We would have to call it something else.
That is exactly what happened to champagne in Niagara. We made champagne in Niagara for decades, and by all accounts, internationally we did extremely well and it was a great product, but the geographical indication for Champagne from France won at the end of the day in a trade ruling. We no longer have champagne in Niagara. We have champagne, but is now called Brut. If it is Brut, we know we are buying champagne from Niagara.
I give full marks to the winemakers in Niagara for making sure that it is marketed in such a way that they did not actually lose any of the domestic market, but people have to hunt to know that it is champagne, and that is the danger of geographical indications to the cheese industry in Canada. We do not have that. That perhaps rules us out of entering some of those markets in the EU where there may be a GI that will be an impediment to us. It is a trade impediment by another name.
I will refer to my notes from Mr. Wally Smith when he was testifying before the agricultural committee a little while ago. He said that there has been a huge investment over the last 10 years, to the tune of about $30 million, by the dairy industry and the cheese producers, which have been expanding and building the market. Canadians have come to know that Canadian homemade cheese is a great product and they are looking to get hold of that product, and they have been able to expand over a period of time. There are many artisanal cheese makers. They tend to be small. We obviously have some big ones as well, but the vast majority are smaller ones.
However, they are taking a fairly substantial risk, because they make a large investment to actually start this up. How do they plan now as we go forward? How do they reinvest in what they want to do if they are not sure what the timelines are, because if the timeline is too short, perhaps they will not get off the ground and market their product in time to go forward.
That would be a real shame, because this is an industry that reminds me of the wine industry in my home area. When I was a bit younger, a few decades ago, the wine industry in Canada was seen as not really a wine industry. It was not regarded as being very good. Now it is regarded throughout the world as being on par with the best in the world and exceeds the best in the world by winning gold medals.
Our cheese industry is at the point where it is ready to make that breakthrough. I hope the Conservatives will support the motion. They say they wish to help. It would ensure that for the cheese producers who are now maturing into world-class cheese producers, that actually happens.
Mr. Bev Shipley (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this House today and support Motion No. 496. I also want to thank my colleague from the NDP, who is vice-chair of the agriculture committee, for putting this motion forward.
The purpose of the motion is to support the action our government has already taken in terms of initiatives for supply management and the EU CETA agreement. Why? It is because the motion calls on our government to respect its promise to Canadian dairy and cheese producers who may be negatively affected by the Canada-European free trade agreement. This is a position we wholeheartedly support.
We have been consulting with the industry on this issue over the past number of months, and we continue to do so. This includes the provincial dairy producers and processors, associations, individual cheese processors, provincial governments, importers, and downstream stakeholders.
As stated by the Prime Minister, our government has fully committed to monitoring the potential impact of the implementation of CETA, and if needed, to providing compensation should a negative impact be observed. Our government continues to put the best interests of farmers first in every decision we make on agriculture. Especially in our rural areas, we recognize the value of Canada's dairy industry and its contribution to the economy and to the well-being of all Canadians.
We have nutritious milk, great cheeses, yoghurts, and ice cream. These are the hallmarks of our highly innovative, highly dedicated dairy industry. From the farm gate to urban centres, when Canadians shop at their local grocers, they do not have to wonder where their milk comes from. They know that it is brought to them by the farmers of Canada. They know they can count on the consistent quality they have come to expect from our dairy farmers and the processing industry.
As members know, the industry is an important contributor to our economy with close to $22 billion in both farm-gate and processing revenues. It provides thousands of jobs for Canadians and a continuous supply of high-quality dairy products for our consumers. That is why we are proud to stand in support of Canada's dairy sector.
Our government has backed up this commitment with concrete measures. We have doubled our investment in the dairy research cluster under Growing Forward 2. We are helping to build a world-class traceability system for livestock. We are also promoting science and rules-based trade to open, and in fact, re-open markets around the world for our world-class dairy genetics. Furthermore, we continue to support supply management, because it has served Canadian farmers, processors, and consumers well over the years.
Supply management is supported by the vast majority of our producers, because it provides them with the opportunity to receive fair and stable returns on their labour and investments. It also provides consumers with a steady supply of high-quality products at predictable and stable prices, and it has done that for over 40 years. It is easy to support an industry that is so committed to innovation, new technology, and the delivery of the highest quality dairy products to Canadians.
We have come a long way, but we will strengthen and expand the agricultural sector even further. That is why we are pursuing the most aggressive trade strategy in our nation's history. Our farmers depend on export markets to grow, and our government has demonstrated that we will unlock new opportunities while continuing to support supply management. In fact, in every trade agreement we have reached, our government has been very clear with our international partners that we support and will protect Canada's supply management system. For example, we have concluded a number of ambitious trade agreements, not only CETA but agreements with Peru, Colombia, and most recently, South Korea. We did that while keeping supply management intact.
We are pursuing ambitious new agreements with 30-some other trade partners because Canada's export sectors need global markets to grow, to create jobs, and to make this great country stronger still. Be confident that, throughout these negotiations, we remain committed to protecting the interests of all sectors of our Canadian economy.
Canadians appreciate our dedication to our dairy farmers, who are also committed to ensuring that the highest quality of milk and milk-based products reach the grocery store shelves. Our government is committed to keeping this sector strong and profitable by helping our producers stay on the cutting edge.
Allow me just to share a couple of examples.
In 2013 the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced that our government has almost doubled our investment in dairy research clusters to $12 million under Growing Forward 2.
In March we announced two investments under the agrimarketing program, which came close to $1 million.
The first investment of $529,000 supports the implementation of the proAction initiative, and this national assurance program for dairy production reinforces the industry's commitment to consumers to provide high-quality, safe Canadian milk and dairy products. This includes on-farm pilot testing of assessment tools and producer training. The six programs under the proAction initiative include milk quality, food safety, livestock traceability, animal care, biosecurity, and environmental protection.
The second investment of $416,000 supports a national traceability program and updating traceability standards for milk producers. This will help Dairy Farmers of Canada to train and assist provincial associations toward program implementation at the producer level; so it is a trickle-down.
Motion No. 496 calls for support for commercialization.
I am also pleased to share with members these kinds of initiatives that go a long way toward building and strengthening commercial confidence and, in turn, boosting sales of our world-class dairy products. In addition, under Growing Forward 2, the new enabling commercialization and adaptation system within the agriInnovation program offers support to the sector for bringing to new markets its innovative products, processes, and services.
I have underscored our government's support for the dairy industry and put to rest any doubt regarding our commitment to supply management. We have a system that works for Canada, for farmers, for consumers, and for all those who are in the agriculture industry. If there were ever a strong example of consumers buying locally in this country, it would be in our dairy, egg, and poultry industries. We are working in the best interests of Canadians.
I want to thank my hon. colleague again for bringing this motion to Parliament. We are looking forward to a continued strong and prosperous future for not only our dairy industry but all of Canadian agriculture.
Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I do not have much time for my speech, so I will get to the point.
I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé. I want to say that she does an excellent job working on agricultural issues across the country. That is important to point out.
This motion calls on the government to honour the promise it made to dairy and cheese producers with respect to the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. The agreement was signed on October 18, 2013, which was seven months ago. The government made a promise to dairy and cheese producers, who are at a significant disadvantage as a result of this agreement, but the government has not yet made any announcement about compensating these producers, who work extremely hard and feed the country. We could get into a debate on food sovereignty and food safety, but that is for another day.
The dairy industry in Canada, particularly in Quebec, creates a lot of direct jobs in dairy production and other areas, but also a lot of indirect jobs in processing. Obviously, milk is a very versatile product.
Dairy and cheese producers publicly expressed their concern over the possible economic and commercial repercussions of this agreement, and rightly so. Many jobs are at stake. Let us not forget also the quality of our Canadian products. The motion seeks to mitigate the impact that the agreement might have on this sector. It is also very important to talk about the supply management system in Canada, which helps ensure stability and fairness with regard to the products, without compromising their quality.
Obviously, the NDP and I support this bill. I am very aware of the significance of this situation, given that I am from a very intensive farming area. The supply management system is very important. We must not abandon it or weaken its pillars. The pillars of supply management are there to make it work properly. If one of those pillars is compromised or collapses, then the entire system will collapse with it. That is what we want to avoid by supporting this motion, which is very relevant to the debate on the free trade agreement.
I humbly ask that the government keep its promise to producers and think about this job-creating industry that is immensely important to our country.