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COVID-19 Updates News Business Production
Ontario producers now can be insured against crop losses due to labour shortages

Ontario farmers already enrolled in an eligible production insurance plan who suffer from crop losses due to labour disruptions during the 2020 growing season will have access to further insurance coverage through Agricorp.


July 9, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

Topics

Ontario farmers will now be able to claim crop losses due to COVID-19 related labour disruptions through their production insurance program.

The governments of Canada and Ontario announced an enhancement to AgriInsurance coverage for the 2020 growing season to include labour shortages due to COVID-19.

Ontario’s agriculture industry, specifically farms growing fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, melons and peaches, are labour intensive and highly dependent on seasonal agricultural workers. COVID-19 has interrupted regular flows of worker travel and has resulted in some gaps in labour availability. This could result in some crops being unharvested and financial loss for the agri-food industry.

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“We recognize that this terrible virus has created new business pressures and increased uncertainty for farmers, which is why we are taking action to ensure farmers have the resources they need to address today’s challenges,” said Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, in a released statement. “By enhancing AgriInsurance coverage to include labour shortages due to COVID-19 for eligible farmers, we are directly responding to their requests for support and protecting Ontario’s agri-food sector so it can continue producing the food our province needs.”

Ontario farmers already enrolled in an eligible production insurance plan who suffer from crop losses due to labour disruptions during the 2020 growing season will have access to further insurance coverage through Agricorp. The added insurance coverage will include:

  • Inability to attract sufficient on-farm labour due to COVID-19; and
  • Illness or quarantine of on-farm labour and the producer due to COVID-19.

Farmers will be expected to notify Agricorp as soon as possible if they experience COVID-19 related labour disruptions that are having an impact on their crops.

“This announcement is an important first step towards giving growers assurances that their government will have their backs during the pandemic,” said Bill George, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA). “We thank Minister Bibeau for making this enhanced coverage possible, and we thank Minister Hardeman and the Ford government for its leadership, and for being the first province in Canada to take this step.”

This new coverage is the first of its kind in Canada, according to OFVGA. It was developed and rolled out at a speed and urgency that is highly unusual for new safety net measures. This was only possible by using an existing program like crop insurance with its yield data and underwriting/adjustment processes. OFVGA stated that it recognizes the importance of applying the lessons learned from this unprecedented new coverage, to extend it to the rest of the edible horticulture sector.

“The OFVGA is committed to working towards the goal of extending these important assurances to all growers, including those not presently covered under crop insurance,” George stated.

“Our Government has been working hard with the provinces and agri-food businesses to ensure those workers have a safe workplace so they can continue putting food on our tables. I congratulate Ontario for being the first province to take this important step that recognizes the hardships Ontario farmers and food producers have faced because of worker shortages, and gives them the added support they need,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, in a released statement.

“Lack of labour was never something that was considered an insurable peril under [the AgriCorp] program and we have been successful at getting that coverage for farmers, so that is some relief,” said Cathy Lennon, general manager of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in a previous story about how Ontario was combating its labour shortages.

Ontario is home to 49,600 farms, growing 200 different commodities. Ontario’s agriculture industry supports 69,000 jobs and contributes $7.6 billion to the GDP.

Business Risk Management programs, including AgriInsurance, protect producers against significant risks that threaten the viability of their farm and are beyond their capacity to manage, such as weather, disease and pests. It is a business risk management program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments to support Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors.