These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Immediate Disaster Relief Needed

Mrs. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the U.S. border has been closed to Canadian livestock for 526 days. Producers now more than ever need immediate disaster relief. Currently the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program requires producers to pay in large deposits just to trigger payouts. This is at a time when producers can least afford it.

When will the minister commit to getting rid of the onerous cash deposit requirement?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, what we have indicated is a willingness to sit down with the industry and have a discussion about exactly how CAIS should be restructured, if it should be.

I should make the point that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has made it clear that we should engage in this annual review. That process is being put in place. I made the commitment to them that as we review this, if there are alternative and better ways to make that particular program work, I am quite willing to listen to them and work at putting them in place.

Mrs. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, when? Producers who have applied for the CAIS program are asking the Liberal government to show them the money. Many are still waiting for their cash advances for 2003.

I ask the agriculture minister, why is he failing farmers by not ensuring that desperate producers who have applied already for the CAIS program receive the cash they need right away?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, not only is money flowing to producers under the CAIS program, but on September 10 we instituted a special CAIS program advance for the beef producers. I am pleased to report that to date, 4,500 of those producers have taken up the offer. We are in the process of ensuring that they have the cash and the necessary liquidity in addition to the restructuring measures that we took on September 10 that will allow our industry to be profitable with or without a border opening.

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, there is a crisis in agriculture, especially among the farmers who are victims of the mad cow crisis. They are exasperated by the government's inability to defend their interests. Quebec's producers have been hit twice: they are the victims of one diseased cow found in Alberta and they are receiving ridiculous prices and subsidies for their cull.

Since we know that one farmer received as little as 7¢ for an animal, what is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food waiting for before he reveals a sensible plan to come to the aid not only of beef cattle producers but to farmers who produce cull cattle in Quebec?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are two significant things that need to be done to address that particular problem.

First is the need to build more capacity. In our announcement of September 10 we are providing initiatives by the federal government to increase that capacity.

In addition, the hon. member and I have had a chance to talk about this. We are in discussions with a number of organizations, including the province of Quebec--and this would also apply to other dairy areas--on exactly how to deal with the cull cow issue in the short term. We will deal with increased capacity in the long term, but we are also having discussions about what to do in the short term.