Saugeen Specialty Grains (Ecocert Canada) OPR 20 (6) (b) Cancellation (Voluntary Withdrawal) 2014-03-25 N/A
Saugeen Specialty Grains, ships organic oats, wheat, rye, triticale, barley and corn all over the world and is one of the largest processors of organic spelt in Canada, processing over 1000 tonnes per year.
The Chair Larry Miller
Thanks very much, Doug.
We'll now go to Sean McGivern. Sean is a producer from the Bessborough area and runs an organic processing facility.
May 4th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
Sean McGivern Grassroots Organics and Saugeen Speciality Grains
Thank you, Madam and Gentlemen.
Are you a passive or an active food consumer? Are you engaged personally in the production and the processing of the food you consume, or are you totally reliant on the industrial food system to provide and deliver to you what it has chosen on your behalf? Are you in control of what you consume? What role do you play in our food system?
Since the 1950s, our food system in North America has not been driven by nature or by the natural forces of the free market. It has been driven by government policies, which have been created to support the industrial food complex that we know as our food system. Government agricultural policies have come to shape the food you eat more than you can ever imagine. Government policies in North America have led to the rush to produce some of the lowest-quality food in the history of mankind due to the subsidies paid to farmers to produce the crops that need to be integrated into our food system.
To be able to use all of the supply of these commodities on a yearly basis and to not have an overwhelming stockpile, innovation was required to form such products as corn into every aspect of the North American diet. It has been said that humans are now walking, talking, molecular structures bound together by corn in every one of its thousands of forms.
There are many signals showing up in our food system that have presented themselves in such forms as obesity, various health issues, shortened lifespan, impoverished rural communities, and the largest disconnection of eaters from food producers in the history of mankind. These health issues are clear representations of the quality of food that humans are consuming. As the human diet has evolved over the last 2,000 years, it is now at an all-time low when it comes to the health aspects of the food we consume. We have traded taste for quantity, texture for shelf life, and regional specialties for Frankenfoods.
There are new plant technologies moving into our food system that are unprecedented. Never in the history of mankind have we seen the irreversible effects that we are now witnessing in our food supply. Never before have we experienced the moral degradation of the Creator's creation like we are now experiencing. Genetic engineering is going to alter, and is already altering, our seed stock. Once it is tampered with, it can never be reverted to its original form, which once worked well and was sustainable and renewable, all of which it is no longer; it is altered, and we are left with the lasting effects it will have on our nation.
With government subsidies paid to crop and livestock farmers, either in the U.S. or Canada, it is a signal to primary producers that they do not need to build resilience into their farming operation, that they should continue to maintain their production levels and methods, and that there is no reason to seek new or better markets. Subsidies have a history of allowing agricultural production to continue that would not under regular circumstances continue to happen if there were not a cash subsidy payment to encourage it to continue. So we now see how government policies, unsustainable production methods, and subsidies have led to the state of the food system that we are supplied with.
Large multinational food processors are delighted to have this type of food system that we have in North America because it allows them a continuous supply of cheap raw materials. It allows them to have captive supply because of the volume they purchase and because governments continue to subsidize producers at the farm level, with no incentive for farmers to continue to produce such stable crops as corn, wheat, soybeans, and cotton, thus keeping the market price for farmers below the cost of production and unable to create a profit from the marketplace alone.
For agriculture to be a viable enterprise in Canada, we need an end to all subsidies related to agricultural production. We cannot afford to pay or protect farmers from the free market with payments based on bushels per acre or pounds per animal. We must pay farmers for such things as environmental stewardship, infrastructure improvements, value-adding incentives, rural disadvantage payments, rural employment creation, and sustainable farming tax credits, all of which will foster a strong rural community while not promoting the overproduction of commodities that are sold into the marketplace at below cost of production levels just to make room for the next year's crop. We must also fight to protect our domestic markets and to ensure we do not allow the dumping of cheap foods that do not comply with our health and safety standards. We also need sensible policies and regulations that do not force our farmers and food processors out of business while allowing substandard foods to enter this country.
Once you understand the true cost of food, you begin to see the need for a food revolution and why it is required to ensure that we have an agricultural economy in the future of this country.
We are facing a plateau in agriculture that we've never seen before. This year alone, China announced a $55 billion rural infrastructure grant to create infrastructure money to be used at the farm level. I recently had a discussion with a high-level person at Staples Business Depot, and they said they had trouble getting a lot of products in, because when the Chinese new year comes around, usually about 20% of the workforce doesn't return to the cities; this year they had over 40% to 50% of the rural workforce not returning because of the infrastructure dollars that China had put in place.
We see agricultural products flowing in from those countries all the time. I work in the export and import types of markets, and we have a business approaching about $2 million a year in sales. The big challenge I see is the lack of infrastructure and processing that we have here. We do not need another government program to give people money to make a business plan or produce some flyers or cards or promote local food; we need money and resources on the ground, ready, willing, and able to help farmers with infrastructure and the dollars they need to do something.
I'm like most of the other people here who have tried to deal with Farm Credit, which always suggests that you deal somewhere else. I think that's horrible.
The other horrible thing—and it's not just the Conservative Party here today, although you've been in power for two terms now, but there have been a lot of other governments before you who have really let agriculture down. We don't need a five-year plan in agriculture, which somebody alluded to. We need a 50-year plan, and we need five-year plateaus where we can update that plan and move ahead. But we don't have that plan now, and I think that's a serious, serious issue here. I don't know how we build any longevity or reality into a market with such short-term thinking. We need long-term thinking, with consistent changes and updates to it. But we need to put that policy and framework in place so that we have something to build upon and not create it as we go.
I think we're at a place right now where we're losing tons of farmers. The big issue we have here, especially in Ontario, is with land values and stuff. It's astronomical. We have farmers competing against farmers who are buying these farms, developing them, putting two or three lots on them, and then expecting the farming community to pay the same value for those properties.
We have some of the highest wages in North America here in Canada. We have some of the highest health and safety standards. We have some of the highest costs of production; whether people realize it or not, we simply do. I don't want to trade any of those things; I'm glad we have them, but we have to be aware that we have them and we have issues that make us uncompetitive in the marketplace.
There's absolutely no reason, in my opinion, with the regulations that we have coming down on us, that we can or will be competitive in the marketplace. It's great for people to think that we are competitive and it's great for people to take pride in the job they do on their products, but we have to be realistic here. If we are as competitive as we keep hearing farmers saying, then we wouldn't have the economic situation that we're in right now.
I just want to leave you with those thoughts, and I look forward to your questions.
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