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Ontario’s Hardeman asks federal government for more agriculture funding


June 30, 2020
By Top Crop Manager

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On Monday, Ernie Hardeman, the Ontario minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, released an official statement addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food. The statement is co-signed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and three separate Ontario agricultural groups.

In the letter, Hardeman thanks the federal government for its support of Canadian agriculture and Bibeau for her ongoing engagement on the issue. He goes on to say that the support provided so far is insufficient to guarantee food security, and that the agricultural sector needs additional support now.

“Farmers are confronted with inadequate availability of labour, additional costs to keep employees safe, and tremendous market volatility,” Hardeman states.

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He highlights the additional costs incurred by farm operations with employees, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and modifications for workstations and housing that enhance physical separation.

“Ontario has taken action to safeguard farm workers and protect the food supply, including providing up to $15 million through the Enhanced Agri-Food Workforce Protection program,” Hardeman says, asking the federal government to follow suit.

This is especially important for farms with large temporary foreign worker (TFW) populations, where housing is often not set up for physical distancing. TFWs in quarantine often must be housed in hotels or other off-site options paid for by the farmer.

Hardeman asks that TFWs be allowed to use “federal quarantine facilities for those who test positive and cannot self-isolate on the farm, along with increased in-person inspections of existing on-farm housing” to ensure compliance with on-farm COVID-19 precautions.

In an effort to prevent financial reasons from discouraging anyone from seeking treatment and screening, the Ontario government temporarily removed the three-month waiting period for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) on March 19, and is covering the cost of COVID-19 treatment for anyone who does not qualify for OHIP coverage.

Hardeman expresses Ontario’s willingness to work with the federal and other provincial governments in collectively finding a solution that will provide Canadian farmers with the support needed to guarantee food security.

He references a joint proposal developed in consultation with other provinces regarding AgriStability¬†“that would promote nationally consistent support for farmers during this time of increased need and uncertainty, while accommodating the fiscal constraints that many provinces face.” The federal government has yet to respond clearly or provide a counter-proposal, according to Hardeman.

“Commodity-specific circumstances have required targeted support for extraordinary costs,” Hardeman says. “However, all farms need increased income support at this time to ensure domestic food production. Farm groups across the country have clearly articulated their urgent need to governments. This is a national problem and requires a national solution.”