Business & Policy
Canadian government provides support for agriculture, CFA states more is needed
May 6, 2020 By Top Crop Manager
On May 5, the Canadian federal government announced a $252 million aid package to support farmers, food businesses, and food processors in response to concerns about food security in Canada and the health of vulnerable food sector workers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also indicated the government’s intention to propose an additional $200 million in borrowing capacity for the agriculture sector.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on Canadians in all communities and in all sectors of the economy,” said Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance. “We are giving agricultural producers and food processors more resources to adapt to the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and, above all, to keep workers safe. Canada’s agricultural sector is interconnected. So the new investments we are making will have a positive impact up and down the production chain.”
This round of financial support takes a targeted approach that earmarks funds for specific sectors or issues, such as the Emergency Processing Fund that will help producers access more personal protective equipment or processing plants better protect employees and adapt to new health protocols. AgriStability and AgriInsurance are also included in hopes of maintaining cash flow, with the addition of a national AgriRecovery initiative of up to $125 million in funding to assist with additional costs incurred, including managing the surplus of livestock.
“For many farmers, this crisis means that they have to keep animals for longer periods of time, and that can be expensive. So, with this funding, we’re giving extra help to beef and pork producers so they can adapt to the crisis,” Trudeau said. “This is an initial investment and if we need to add more, we will.”
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) issued a statement shortly thereafter that welcomed the announcement, but stated that it fell well short of the $2.6 billion needed to handle the immediate impacts of COVID-19 in the agriculture sector.
The CFA has been increasingly vocal about the need to address these impacts on Canadian agriculture, culminating last week in a petition that the federal government create an Agriculture and Agri-Food Emergency Fund of $2.6 billion. With rising operational costs, labour shortages, reduced access to processing plants, changing demand with the food service industry drop and insufficient financial support, the risks of higher prices and/or food shortages increase.
“Farmers are making decisions today on how confident they should be investing in further food production this year,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president. “They are making decisions right now that will have a direct impact on the variety and cost of domestic food availability for everyday Canadians.
“With such huge uncertainty in our sector and lack of a firm financial backstop, in essence we are asking our farmers to put themselves and their farms at risk to grow food for Canada. Many farmers are facing the reality that these risks are too great, and are having to modify their food production plans. As a country we cannot allow this to happen.”
Planting season is underway for many crops, so the window of opportunity for increasing or decreasing production is shrinking rapidly.
“We understand that we aren’t the only ones asking for help right now,” Robinson said. “Many sectors and industries are in desperate need of support. However, after healthcare, there is nothing more important for Canada during this pandemic than domestic food security.”