Our Government continued to get things done for Canadian producers and processors during a most successful spring session. We continued to deliver on our promise to support Canada’s agricultural industry, which is the backbone of our economy. A number of achievements were accomplished since January in several areas of agriculture. I would like to take this opportunity to provide more details on just a few of these many accomplishments achieved by our Government this spring.
In March, Prime Minister Harper announced $1 billion for farmers providing $400 million to go directly into farmers to help cover high production costs and $600 million to kick start a new producer savings account program. In addition, a total of $4.5 billion has been committed to agriculture in the 2006 and 2007 Budgets. Our Government also improved cash advances by making legislative changes to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act (AMPA), which expanded coverage to include livestock and additional crops. The overall limit on advances has been increased from $250,000 to $400,000 and the amount of the interest-free portion of the advances was increased from $50,000 to $100,000.
Budget 2007 invested $2 billion for the support and expansion of the Canadian renewable fuel industry. This funding will help create a sustainable biofuel sector that will deliver a new demand for Canadian agricultural products. An additional $10 million was announced for the Biofuel Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI) program in March, as a result of strong producer uptake and demand. Another $145 million was delivered to the Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program (ABIP). This is a five-year program designed to promote research, development, technology transfer and the commercialization of agricultural bioproducts, including biofuels, in Canada. The program will benefit farmers by generating new agricultural knowledge and technology.
Science and innovation were widely supported by our Government this spring. A new Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Science and Innovation Strategy was released to invoke partnerships between government and the private sector, which will maximize research opportunities. Moreover, through a five-year partnership with the province of Ontario, $15.5 million has been granted to the Vineland Research Centre, in Southern Ontario, to help revitalize the horticulture research activities at Vineland.
Our Government also accomplished a great deal with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency this spring. In May 2007, Canada earned “Controlled Risk” status, which is the second highest level awarded from the World Health Organization (WHO) of Animal Health (OIE). Since the announcement, countries have expressed their intention to re-open their borders to Canadian beef. The AAFC has worked to expand the Canadian Beef industry. New markets such as Russia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Egypt, and other nations are now importing Canadian beef. Along with exporting cattle for food, Canada is now beginning to export breeding stock to various nations. Furthermore, “Hold and Test” measures were put in place at borders to ensure the safety of imported food products.
During the spring session, there was a continued push by our Government for an aggressive outcome at the WTO that will eliminate export subsidies, reduce trade distortion, and increase market access. Minister Strahl, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, together with the Minister of Trade, formally requested a WTO dispute settlement panel on the issue of U.S. subsidies.
Minister Strahl, together with Minister Emerson also continued to support supply management at the WTO. In April, the Government formally submitted to the WTO its intention to invoke an Article 28, to restrict imports of milk protein concentrates.
These are just a few of the many achievements made by our Government since January. Although a great deal was accomplished this spring, our Government will continue to get things done for our Canadian producers and will continue to support our agricultural industry.