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FCC backs $100M support fund for agriculture businesses

Businesses in the agribusiness and agri-food sector can apply to the $100-million fund for up to $10 million in financial support to return to a better financial footing.

May 14, 2020  By Fruit and Vegetable

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) launched a $100-million Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund to support agricultural companies through unexpected business disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched in partnership with Forage Capital Inc. – a Calgary-based venture capital firm – the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund is set up to provide companies with the financial stability and flexibility they need to rebuild their business models. FCC is the sole investor in the fund.

The fund, according to the media release, will help companies through “convertible debt investments and other flexible financing solutions.” The applications will be assessed individually on their merit and each business can be supported to a maximum of $10 million.

However, the funding must be used to “to return recipient companies to a sound financial footing” and “cannot be used to repay shareholder loans or purchase shareholder equity positions.”  To qualify, companies need to demonstrate an impact from an unexpected business disruption, such as the loss of a key supplier, temporary loss of a facility or permanent loss of critical staff or leadership.

The fund is set up to support a range of businesses in the agribusiness and agri-food sector, including companies involved in primary production, agri-tech, manufacturing, packaging and distribution.

According to Forage Capital, some examples of areas that are targeted by the fund are:

  • Food manufacturing and processing companies for both ingredients and finished products,
  • Crop input and fertilizer businesses,
  • Companies that design and/or manufacture farm equipment or equipment used to produce food products,
  • Distribution/merchandising or logistics companies for agricultural commodities, food ingredients or finished products, or farm inputs.

Forage Capital states that this fund is primary for companies that were doing well prior to the current economic set back caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and now have a well-defined need for new capital. The Forage Fund explains that it will provide these companies with an opportunity to partner with an active investor – which in this case is FCC – to stabilize their business.

Starting today, businesses interested can approach the fund with a business plan or investment opportunity and the fund has already started looking at opportunities, explains Jim Taylor, a partner with Forage Capital, in an email.

“Many businesses will likely be referred to the fund by chartered banks, FCC’s term lending staff, lawyers or other trusted advisors to the companies in need,” Taylor continues. The application process involves companies presenting a business plan or “some kind of summary of their situation and future plans” to the funding team. What is presented will be evaluated by the team and after a period of due diligence an investment decision will be made by the fund’s investment committee.

“It would typically take between four and eight weeks for a fund like ours to complete an investment in to a business,” Taylor explained in the email.

“It would typically take between four and eight weeks for a fund like ours to complete an investment in to a business,” Taylor explained in the email.

As for if Forage Capital will balance the funding among areas – Taylor explains it will be divided based on need. “Each opportunity will be assessed on its own and the fund will be invested on a first come first serve basis,” Taylor states in the email.

Recently, members from the agriculture sector, such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, have voiced concerns that many of the supports being offered by the federal government rely heavily on existing business risk management programs that won’t allow funding to be available in time “to make a substantial and positive impact on domestic food security.” There is currently no information on how fast funding will be available from the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund.

The announcement of a $100-million Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund complements the Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau’s announcement on Mar. 23, 2020 to enhance FCC’s lending capacity by an additional $5 billion to help producers and agri-food businesses with access to cash flow to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that announcement, more than 4,800 producers and agri-food businesses have used payment deferral options on FCC loans totaling $4 billion and have established credit lines totaling more than $500 million to alleviate short-term cash flow concerns.

A list of Canadian government supports for the ag sector

  • The FCC announcement is part of many actions the Government of Canada has taken to support agricultural and food processing businesses during COVID-19. These initiatives include:
    • Creating a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment (PPE), adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations, and respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19 so they can better supply Canadians with food during this period;
    • Launching national AgriRecovery initiatives of up to $125 million in funding to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19;
    • Launching a first-ever Surplus Food Purchase Program with an initial $50 million fund designed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories;
    • Investing $62.5 million for a new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help Canada’s fish and seafood processing sector;
    • Launching a Business Credit Availability Program to provide $65 billion of additional support through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada;
    • Creating the Canada Emergency Business Account to provide up to $25 billion to eligible financial institutions so they can provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced;
    • Deferring income tax payment for all Canadian businesses, including agribusinesses, until after August 31, 2020;
    • Deferring Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports for businesses, including self-employed individuals;
    • Extending loan deadlines for all farmers with outstanding loans under the Advance Payments Program;
    • Extending the enrollment deadline from April 30, 2020 to July 3, 2020 AgriStability
  • The Government has announced it will work with provinces and territories through a new temporary top up to the salaries of low-income essential workers, including agriculture and agri-food employees, who make less than $2,500 a month, as well as the expansion of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB. This includes seasonal workers in agriculture and agri-food.
  • The Government of Canada is investing $50 million to help employers of temporary foreign workers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad. This investment will provide $1,500 to eligible employers for each temporary foreign worker. In April, sector partners, in close collaboration with the federal government, successfully brought in over 80 per cent of the normal amount of Temporary Foreign Workers to Canada, compared to the previous year.
  • In addition, all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan. This measure represents $173 million in deferred loans.

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