|These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard
Guaranteed Floor Price
Mr. Charlie Angus (TimminsóJames Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is the first day of summer and Canadians are sparking up their barbecues.
Steak prices have not dropped, farm debt is rising and packer profits are soaring. We are living through the worst agricultural crisis in memory and two U.S. food giants are making out like bandits. Cargill and Tyson control over 80% of the slaughter capacity in this country.
What steps will the minister take to ensure a guaranteed floor price and protection against predatory pricing practices from these U.S. food giants?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are a number of measures that need to take place.
First of all, we need to increase our capacity in this country for processing meat and that has increased by more than 30% Second, we need to expand our marketplace simply beyond the United States. I am happy to say that we have regained access or established new access in 14 new marketplaces over the last year.
At the same time, we have provided either direct or indirect support to those in the cattle and beef industry and other ruminant industries, of over $2 billion. We will continue to support those industries.
Mr. Charlie Angus (TimminsóJames Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am not talking about band-aid solutions to producers or allowing Tyson and Cargill to expand their slaughter capacity. We know that they control the shots on both sides of the border. The March 2005 boxed beef report says that packer profits have jumped sharply, while cattle prices have tanked. It is a virtual U.S. agri-monopoly.
What do we do with monopolies? We bust them up. When will the government stand up and bring in a regulatory pricing regime to insist that these U.S. profiteers are finally brought into line?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising to have the NDP characterize $2 billion as band-aids. That is in line with that party's philosophy.
Quite frankly, what we have done in terms of helping our cattle producers is to put in place a set aside program which has helped to stabilize the price. This has allowed them to get a much greater return from the marketplace than they otherwise would have.
The long term solution is to bring rationality back into the marketplace by balancing supply and demand. That is why it is important to increase our slaughter capacity. That is why it has increased by 30% over the last few months.