Ontario expands Agri-food Workplace Protection Program by $11.6M
The expanded program will also include a new category for small capital projects of up to $100,000 for housing modifications, workplace modifications and equipment to allow greater physical distancing for workers.
October 14, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
A new agreement between Ontario and the federal government will see Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada invest an additional $11.6 million to help support efforts by Ontario producers to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their farms.
Actions such as building physical barriers for worker separation, upgrading HVAC systems and enhancing hand-washing facilities will be eligible for this cost-share funding.
The federal funding that will be delivered by Ontario is in addition to the Ontario government’s commitment in June of up to $15 million to support workplace safety enhancements in the sector through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.
“Protecting the health and well-being of all farm workers who are helping ensure the food security for Canadians has been a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food. “We will continue to provide Ontario farmers with the support they need to ensure the right measures are in place to safeguard their employees and limit the spread of the virus.”
“Ensuring the health and safety of our families and employees continues to be the highest priority for our members,” said Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “Adopting pandemic protocols and making adaptations on farm and to accommodations has added another layer of complexity and expense to our farm businesses from spring planting through harvest. This investment of $26.6 million from the federal and provincial governments will directly contribute to ensuring our ability to produce high quality, affordable food close to home while ensuring greater employee protection.”
Under the expanded program, the amount farmers can claim for preventive expenses including a combination of workplace modifications, PPE, transportation and temporary housing will double to $15,000.
The program will also include a new category for small capital projects of up to $100,000 for housing modifications, workplace modifications and equipment to allow greater physical distancing for workers.
Last week, the federal government opened applications for the $35-million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund in certain provinces and territories. The $35 million 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 Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) will deliver the $11.6 million allocated to Ontario projects.
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, where 40 per cent of temporary foreign workers work on farms, the federal government expanded an existing program – the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program – instead of rolling out the AAFC-directed fund. A merger with existing provincial support programs is expected for the other provinces left out of last week’s announcement, such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Minister Bibeau explained that these discussions are ongoing.
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