These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Millions of Dollars Lost

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, because of mad cow disease, millions of dollars are being lost not only by beef producers, but also by dairy producers in Quebec, who have lost $54 million in cull alone since the crisis began 18 months ago.

Does the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food realize that his aid package for dairy farmers in Canada and Quebec has totally missed the mark since it compensates for only a very small percentage of their loss?


Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are two component parts to this issue that are important.

First is the need to have increased slaughter capacity in the province of Quebec in a competitive environment, and that the announcement on September 10 is providing additional resources to do.

There is also the issue of cull cows from the dairy herds. That is an issue in Quebec. It is also an issue in other parts of Canada. I have indicated a willingness to try to arrive at a solution working with my provincial colleagues and with industry associations. We will find a solution that assists producers.


Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, before the crisis, a dairy producer got up to $700 per cull, while the average price since the beginning of the crisis is $150, which does not include the transportation cost or the slaughter fees that continue to increase. A new low was reached when a producer received a mere 7¢ for his cow.

What will it take for the minister to realize that his aid package is inadequate and that it is leading Quebec dairy producers straight into bankruptcy?


Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, like I said, in terms of increased slaughter capacity which is essential to resolve this issue, there is funding that is being made available.

In terms of the actual pricing of the cull cows, there are three component parts to that. First, there is what the market continues to provide. Second, the Canadian Dairy Commission when it establishes the price of milk takes into account any decrease in the inventory value of the animals. Then there is the issue of providing direct government support.

If we are to go that route, it is essential that that support go to producers.


Mrs. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is not just beef producers that are suffering from the Liberal insults to the Americans, but dairy producers as well. Will pork or poultry producers, or agri-food processors soon also have to pay the price for the Liberal caucus insults?

In his infamous announcement on September 10, why did the minister ignore the dairy producers?


Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, anything but. The reality is that the September 10 announcement provides additional support for creating increased slaughter capacity. The reality is that through the various programs the federal government working with the provinces have provided for those involved in the beef industry, there has been a little over $2 billion in support.

As I have said, there are issues in terms of the dairy industry and we are in fact working on those.

Mrs. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the U.S. border has now been closed to the trade of live Canadian cattle for 531 days. The government's inaction and failure to open the border has forced the Canadian Cattlemen for Fair Trade to file a chapter 11 claim under NAFTA.

I ask the agriculture minister, when will his government take responsibility, stand with the cattle industry and file challenges at the WTO and under chapter 20 of NAFTA?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, unlike the hon. member across the way, I am interested in getting the border open, not in creating a legal process that may go on for years and years and years. Our intention is to have the border opened.

The reality is that we have not ignored cattle producers. In fact, $2.1 billion between the provincial and federal governments is flowing to beef producers. Also, on September 10 we made an announcement that will work toward ensuring that the industry can be profitable with or without a border opening.