Earlier this month, Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz appeared at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to discuss the main estimates for the agriculture department.
As a member of this committee, I believe his appearance highlighted the failure of the Conservative government to address the serious challenges facing the farming community.
The minister’s appearance can be summed up in one word: disappointing.
He failed to explain the $1.1 billion reduction in program payments over the last two years at a time when hog and beef producers face unprecedented losses, processing plants are closing down, potato producers are in a cash flow crisis, and the Ontario tender fruit industry is confronted with huge losses.
Where is the financial assistance for these struggling farming families?
In addition, Minister Ritz would not explain the massive funding cuts to the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), which include a 67 percent cut to producer protection programs, a 50 percent cut to grain quality programs, a 60 percent cut to research, and an estimated 40 percent cut to human resources.
This is of particular concern in Thunder Bay, where the CGC employs more than 100 people. The lack of answers is a slap to our grain industry and to the workers affected.
Following the minister’s appearance, department officials confirmed the government will not pay out 100 percent of the monies committed to producers on the Family Farm Options Program.
This is just one more broken promise to our farmers.
There is a growing sense of concern within the farm community about the actions of the Harper government on the issues of our primary producers.
In addition to a reduction in program payments, funding cuts to the Canadian Grain Commission, and the cancellation of the Family Farm Options program, this government has launched a full-scale attack against the Canadian Wheat Board to remove barley marketing from under the farmer-elected board of directors.
Our farmers deserve respect and support, not broken promises and funding cuts.
As a member of the agriculture committee, I will continue to press the government on these issues to ensure the interests of our farming families will be addressed.