Feds Launch $252 Million Support Program for Farmers

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The Canadian federal government announced a more than $252 million support program for farmers to help as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected food supply chains, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says in announcement from Ottawa, Ont. on May 5.

The support program includes a $50 million food surplus program where the government will purchase products, such as potatoes, milk and poultry, which had been going to waste and distribute them to organizations such as food banks. The support program also includes $77 million for food processors to protect workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety measures, the funding will also help them expand to produce more food domestically. There is $125 million for hog and beef farmers to help adjust to market conditions. Dairy producers will also be able to access an increased line of credit for help.

The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions are not impressed by the aid package, calling it a “band-aid” solution in a release from the groups. They say the federal government is failing to address the long-standing issues farmers were facing before the pandemic including global trade uncertainty and ineffective Business Risk Management (BRM) programs.

“We need programs that allow us to withstand major shocks to our incomes and ongoing risks beyond our control including trade, weather and global pandemics without having to resort to ad-hoc solutions,” Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair, says in the release.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) had previously asked the government for $2.6 billion to help the agriculture industry. The group says their total was based on estimates made by commodity groups across the country. In a release from the group they say while they welcome the funding, it is not enough to avert negative impacts to Canadian food supply in the coming months.

“We know that there is more to do and we will keep working with them to determine exactly how we can best help. We will be there for our agricultural producers because they are so important to all Canadians,” Trudeau says.

Trudeau says the government will continue to working with farmers, the provinces and territories on long-term solutions to help the agriculture sector during the pandemic, with more funding possible in the future.

The Canadian government is also working with the industry in regards to temporary foreign workers (TFWs). As of May 5, 90 per cent of the usual amount of TFWs have arrived in Canada. As harvest nears and more workers are required, Trudeau says they will work with the industry to meet their needs.