Warner Herbert Jorgenson
Mr. Chairman, I rise at this time to support the measure announced by the Prime Minister yesterday providing assistance for western grain producers. In doing so there are several points I want to mention without trespassing on the ground that has already been covered, and I would also like to reply to some of the comments made from the opposition benches.
The hon. member for Essex East as usual entertained us yesterday when he replied to the announcement by flailing away in all
directions in the jungle of his thoughts. He then proceeded out into the cow pasture where, blissfully ignorant of where he was placing his feet, he proceeded to plod in all directions. He did indicate, however, that he knew something about cow pastures because he did not forget the bull.
I want to say that this measure providing assistance to western farmers is going to materially assist the transformation that today is taking place. The development of agriculture within the past ten years, the changing over from the old type of agriculture into the "agri-business" has required a tremendous amount of capitalization, and before this government came into office very little assistance in this direction had been received from the previous government.
The hon. member for Drummond-Artha-baska in many of the speeches he has made in this house, as well as again today, has referred to the Prime Minister's policies in the two election campaigns. I am glad he did that, because if he were to look at the program that was outlined by the Prime Minister in the 1956 and 1957 campaigns he would discover that the policies outlined at that time have, with the exception of a national rural development and soil conservation program, being largely implemented.
The hon. member for Essex East chided the Prime Minister for bringing in these measures, for talking about crop insurance and farm credit and things of that nature. I think it was necessary that this be done in order to indicate the place this particular program fills in the over-all agricultural policy of this country. I do not think it is possible for anyone to point to any particular measure and say that is the cure-all. We have never attempted to do that, but almost invariably when a measure of this nature is brought into this house the criticism which comes from the opposition benches tends to indicate that they believe, regardless of what measure is brought in, that that measure by itself could cure all the problems of agriculture. Each specific measure that is introduced, and there have been many since this government took power, is designed to take care of a particular situation, and when the entire program has been implemented then we will have that degree of parity that the Prime Minister has spoken of during two election campaigns and indeed on many occasions in the past.
I want to thank the hon. member for Drummond-Arthabaska for assisting us in our argument supporting this assistance to western grain farmers. One thing which I think we must all recognize is that the western grain producer occupies an unique position in the agricultural economy today, in that the greater percentage of his products find their
way into the export market. This makes it extremely difficult to apply measures which we have applied to other products largely consumed in the domestic market. This makes it necessary to develop a policy that is unique in attempting to solve the problems of the western grain farmer.
The hon. member pointed out that during the 1959 crop year the income of the farmers in Canada had dropped by $27 million. He strengthened our argument for an acreage payment when he said this, although he neglected to point out that $20 million of that $27 million was in western Canada. In addition, when he referred to the drop in income in the first quarter of this year and the drop of $50 million, $47 million of that amount was again in western Canada. I might also add here that when he referred to that period he was referring in 1959 to the highest quarter in Canadian agricultural history.
Now, Mr. Chairman, there has been a tendency on the part of a good many people to attempt to relate the price stabilization legislation to a means whereby the problem of the cost-price squeeze-and this is the big problem in western Canada today-can be solved. I submit that this is manifestly wrong. Price stabilization was introduced for a specific purpose, to prevent the uncertainties as to income of the farmers of this country. At the time the bill was introduced the prairie producers of wheat, oats and barley were not included under the jurisdiction of the board, and there was a specific reason for that. Price stabilization by itself is designed to level off violent fluctuations in price and to ensure to the farmer that prices will not drop below certain specified levels. The farmers themselves have an opportunity of discussing price levels with the stabilization board.
To attempt to solve the problem of the cost-price squeeze by the use of the price stabilization board could lead us into serious difficulties. First of all, if it is applied to wheat, oats and barley, as I mentioned earlier a large percentage of these products goes into the export market and we would be using money to subsidize exports. As the Prime Minister pointed out yesterday, that would weaken our argument against those countries which are using that type of sales policy today.
In my opinion the problem of the cost-price squeeze can only be dealt with if you base your calculations on the fact that whatever product is produced must be sold. There are those who conveniently ignore this fact, but assuming that whatever is produced in this country must ultimately be sold, then the problem of the cost-price squeeze can only be met with measures designed to reduce the cost of production-and we have taken
many steps in that direction, and to increase our export markets-or, and I hesitate to suggest this last alternative because it is one that I know will be unacceptable to the farmers themselves, through the imposition of production controls. The United States attempted to use this type of rigid price support in order to assure to farmers their fair share of the national income. Subsequently they had to introduce acreage controls, and rather than getting out of their difficulties they increased them. The government are wise in that they have not followed this course in Canada.
Our product, wheat, finds a ready market in the countries of the world because of its superior quality. It is essential-and I think this is where the government does render a great service-to maintain the quality of our grain and make every possible effort to find more markets for it.
Some time ago the Prime Minister announced that our agricultural policy would follow two parallel but separate lines. There was the over-all policy which was designed to take care of the national situation, and then there were policies which would have to be implemented on a regional basis in order to take care of difficulties that arise within various regions of the country. Obviously a program designed to take care of a regional problem cannot possibly help people in another area; therefore our policy has been designed with that object in view, and we have constantly tried to make the policies complementary.
It is useless to have a program of price supports if crop insurance is not implemented along with it, because no amount of price support can be of any possible value to a farmer who has suffered a crop loss. This is true in this particular instance as well, because during the years when farmers were asking for price support and for some assistance in agriculture they did not have the benefit of crop insurance. I am glad to say that the province of Manitoba has taken the lead in this regard, and in my area a trial program has been put into effect. I might also add here that contrary to the predictions of the opposition, who maintained that farmers would not take out insurance policies, in my own municipality 75 per cent of the farmers have taken out crop insurance. This is an indication of how the farmers themselves support the policies of this government, and it must serve as a reminder to the opposition members that when they were on this side of the house and those policies were asked for they would have been wise to implement them at that time-
Many arguments have been presented with regard to the specific program now before us, and I do not intend to cover the ground again. There is one particular point in regard to the acreage payment that I wish to raise. I hold in my hand a card issued by the Canadian wheat board which represents the interim payment on the 1957 crop, which amounted at that time to 10 cents a bushel. This card was given to me by a farmer when he came to me and pressed for acreage payments. He said "I have no use for this. It will give you a clear indication, however, of how useless deficiency payments would have been to me". This card is from a farmer who farms a section of land near Arnaud, Manitoba. The total amount of his interim payment on a section of land at that time was $1.33. If he had received a deficiency payment of 30 cents a bushel he would have obtained $3.99. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the $200 which each farmer will receive under this program is by far the better method of distributing this amount of money.
I have received many letters from reeves, councillors, farmers and businessmen in my own constituency, and of all the letters I received from individuals not one advocated a system of deficiency payments. I am not suggesting for a moment that the hon. member for Essex East is supporting a program of deficiency payments on western grain, because he studiously avoided making any mention of it yesterday. We shall be waiting with interest to hear what policy, as an alternative to the one the government has now proposed, he would implement.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank the government for providing this measure of assistance to the farmers in western Canada and in particular to the farmers in Provencher who, like many farmers across this country, at the present time are using the facilities of the Farm Credit Corporation, crop insurance, cash advances on farm-stored grain, and many of those other programs the government has implemented since it came into power in an attempt to establish more economical units and reduce the cost of production in an effort to meet the cost-price squeeze and to produce for the benefit of the people of this world. I support this measure, Mr. Chairman.