The federal government is set to announce financial support for farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, in a May 5, 2020 story. (Pixabay file photo)

Feds to unveil emergency aid for agri-food sector hit hard by COVID-19

More support in coming weeks

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is expected to announce today significant, targeted financial support for farmers hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement will come just as some farmers are making decisions about whether to plant crops and others are considering whether they need to cull their cattle, pigs and poultry because of the reduced capacity of meat processing plants, which have proven particularly vulnerable to the spread of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The federal government has taken some small steps to cushion the blow to farmers but Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has been promising for several weeks that more aid is coming.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has been warning that financial assistance is urgently needed to protect against food shortages in Canada.

Two weeks ago, the federation urged the government to make food security a top priority, second only to protecting the health of Canadians.

“It was a large step to take, and while CFA does not mean to cause panic about food insecurity, we felt like there was no other option as our sector is at a tipping point where the consequences of a lack of meaningful support from our federal government will impact our domestic food supply,” federation president Mary Robinson said in a statement issued on April 20.

“As farmers make crop and animal production plans for 2020, we need to feel confident that we will not go broke due to COVID impacts on our farms and the food supply chain, that instead government has our backs.”

Robinson complained that the government has committed $500 million to other hard-hit sectors of the economy, including arts and sports, while just $50 million has been so far devoted to helping farmers cover the cost of isolating temporary foreign workers who enter the country to work on farms.

“It is beyond frustrating to see our industry, that is both foundational and integral to the long term success of our country, seems to be largely ignored.”

Bibeau has pointed out that some farmers are eligible for previously announced emergency financial assistance and existing farm income stabilization programs.

But the federation has been calling for the creation of an emergency preparedness fund specifically for farmers dealing with increased expenses and obstacles due to the pandemic.

It also wants changes to existing risk management programs so they are more responsive to farmers’ needs. And it wants the federal government to ensure farmers and food processors have the personal protective equipment they need to protect their own health.

As well, the federation has called for federal incentives to encourage unemployed Canadians to work on farms.

Today’s announcement comes one day after the Cargill meat processing plant near High River, Alta., re-opened after closing on April 20 as COVID-19 swept through the plant.

More than 900 of Cargill’s 2,000 workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. One worker has died.

The union that represents the workers is asking a court to stop work at the plant and has also filed unfair labour practice complaints against Cargill and the province of Alberta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020.

AgricultureBusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stettler Learning Centre nearing renovations completion

A grand opening for the new location is planned for this fall

Plans in place for a different kind of graduation this year at Wm E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus

“They deserve to be celebrated for this milestone in their education.”

$2 raise for some health care workers in Alberta over a month late

Delay isn’t from Alberta Health, spokesperson confirms

Wind warning issued for central Alberta

City of Red Deer and Lacombe under wind warning

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

SpaceX’s historic encore: Astronauts arrive at space station

SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked automatically

Ottawa pledges millions to promote holiday travel in Canada during pandemic

Funding announced include $30 million originally earmarked for attracting foreign visitors

Sweats are in, slacks are out: Could ‘work-leisure’ become business as usual?

Many desk-dwellers are opting for sweatpants as work-from-home era has loosened up dress codes

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

Increase is part of the government’s pledge to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage

In hard-hit Quebec, families struggle to mourn those lost to COVID-19

The province recorded more than 50,000 confirmed cases and over 4,300 deaths as of Friday

Most Read