October 23, 2020 By Stephanie Gordon
Nova Scotia farmers can now apply for funding to help cover some of the costs of improvements to protect workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A new agreement between the Government of Canada and Nova Scotia will see Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada invest $983,500, for a total of $1,229,375 available funding under the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund.
The Emergency On-Farm Support Fund will provide support to farmers for direct infrastructure improvements to living quarters and work stations, temporary or emergency housing (on or off-farm), as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary stations, work stations and any other health and safety measures to safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and temporary foreign workers from COVID-19.
Applicants are eligible for federal assistance and a provincial top-up, for up to 75 per cent of eligible project costs, to a maximum of $50,000.
Farmers seeking to apply for funding must do so before December 31.
“It’s a priority to ensure that all Nova Scotia workers can perform their jobs safely during this pandemic,” said Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell. “By supporting farm workers, we are also protecting our high-quality food supply and maintaining a strong agriculture sector.”
The Government of Canada is investing $35 million to improve health and safety on farms through the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund. The $35 million fund is part of a $58.6 million investment the Canadian federal government made into the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in late July amid COVID-19 outbreaks on farms. The fund was announced along with increased supports to temporary foreign workers, strengthened employer inspections regime, and the development of improved employer-provided living accommodation requirements.
The Fund will be delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. In Ontario and Nova Scotia, it is administered provincially.
Worker rights groups such as The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have been pushing for more deep rooted changes to the TFW program, such as permanent resident status on arrival for workers. A MWAC report released in June also called for a national housing standard, increased wages, and income supports for workers impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks at their workplaces.
In an October 5 press conference, Minister Bibeau responded saying that the conversation for TFW program reform is ongoing with Ministers Qualtrough and Mendicino. Carla Qualtrough is the federal minister of employment and Marco Mendicino is the federal minister of immigration.
Minister Bibeau also highlighted the federal Agri-Food Pilot program which provides a pathway for permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in specific agricultural industries and occupations, including greenhouse. The three-year pilot, taking place from May 2020 to 2023, will test an industry-specific approach to help employers in the greenhouse and mushroom production, meat processing, and livestock-raising industries. Bibeau said the results of the program will help inform the government’s future approaches.
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