The $252 million spread over several targeted projects is just an initial investment, the prime minister says
By Jackie Clark
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and commodity groups across the country have been calling for governmental support to help producers address challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $252 million investment in the agricultural and agri-food sector.
“Time and time again Canadians step up in times of crisis,” said Trudeau. And all the Canadians who work in the food supply chain are doing so now.
The federal government will provide “more than $77 million dollars to support food processors during this crisis. This is money that they can use to purchase personal protective equipment for workers, adapt health protocols and support other social distancing measures. It will also help extend or adapt our processing capacity to increase the amount of Canadian products we make domestically,” Trudeau said.
Producers will also be provided with financial assistance.
“To help cattle and hog producers, we will launch a $125-million national AgriRecovery initiative,” Trudeau said.
“Farms and processing plants are raising more animals than the system can process into things like steak and bacon, because of COVID-19. For many farmers, this crisis means that they have to keep animals for longer periods of time. That can be expensive. With this funding we’re giving extra help to beef and pork producers so they can adapt to this crisis,” he explained.
Changes in demand from the shift away from food service sales and processing challenges have contributed to instances of temporary oversupply of certain food products in Canada, like milk.
“While some donations have been made to food banks, we don’t have the capacity right now to redistribute such large quantities of food, and some producers have no choice but to throw out their product,” Trudeau said. “It’s a waste of food, and a loss of revenue for the people who worked so hard to produce it.”
To address this issue, the federal government is “launching a surplus food purchase program, starting with a $50 million fund. The government will buy large quantities of certain products at risk of going to waste, such as potatoes or poultry, and redistribute them to organizations addressing food insecurity. This will help ensure that our farmers are being compensated for their hard work and our most vulnerable have access to fresh food during this crisis,” he said.
Trudeau hopes to continue “to support the people who keep our grocery stores stocked and our families fed.”
The CFA had asked for an emergency fund of $2.6 billion to support Canada’s food security.
Today’s announcement from the prime minister is “an initial investment and if we need to do more, we will,” Trudeau said.
“We know that farmers still have concerns about what this pandemic means for their industry long term … I can assure you that we are working with farmers, stakeholders, provinces and territories to find lasting solutions,” he added.
Canada is a large and diverse country, and the needs of its agricultural and agri-food industries are similarly vast and varied.
The federal government is taking a targeted approach to support different sectors within the ag industry, Trudeau said. This initial funding focuses mainly on livestock and meat producers and processors.
The fruit and vegetable sectors have expressed labour concerns. 90 per cent of the workers that Canada normally welcomes seasonally have arrived, Trudeau said. The government will continue to support the industry to ensure labour needs for harvest season are met, he added.
“We will continue to work with farmers … to ensure that our food capacity in this country and those people who work so incredibly hard every single day to feed Canadians get the support that they need through this crisis and beyond,” Trudeau said.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, cooking and enjoying food has become more significant to many Canadians in terms of wellness and connection.
“You help make that possible, so we’re here for all of you in the agri-food industry,” Trudeau said.
Read about Minister Bibeau providing more details on the funding here and the ag industry’s reaction here.
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