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Prime Minister announces $252M in support for agriculture sector

The financial support is split up across multiple streams to help producers adapt their practices, boost food processing capacity in Canada, and minimize food surpluses.


May 5, 2020
By Stephanie Gordon


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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of more than $252 million to support Canadian farmers, food businesses, and food processors.

The financial support is split up across multiple streams to help producers adapt their practices, boost food processing capacity in Canada, and minimize food surpluses.

$77.5-million Emergency Processing Fund

The federal government created a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund for food producers to access more personal protective equipment (PPE), adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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During a virtual press conference, concerns were raised that multi-national companies that operate globally with processing plants in Canada would have the same access to these funds as smaller local processors. Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, said in response, as of May 5, the government is still working on its list of eligibility requirements for which food processors can benefit.

Minister Bibeau emphasized that the idea behind the fund is to increase the food processing capacity in Canada while providing better protection for workers.

Minister Bibeau emphasized that the idea behind the fund is to increase the food processing capacity in Canada while providing better protection for workers. The $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund is set up as cost-share and Minister Bibeau said the federal portion would be higher for small plants, and lower for larger plants.

$125 million in AgriRecovery funding

The federal government also is launching a national AgriRecovery initiative of up to $125 million in funding to help producers faced with additional costs incurred due to COVID-19.

Within this $125 million, $50 million is set aside for cattle management programs and another $50 million is set aside for hog management programs. This new federal funding will help beef and pork producers and processors adapt to a changing market, and help farmers and ranchers keep their animals longer before marketing. The leftover $25 million is approved for use, but not set aside for a particular market at the current moment according to Bibeau.

The AgriRecovery program is set up to help producers with extraordinary costs taken on during natural disasters. This program is not available all the time, but provincial governments can request AgriRecovery to be activated from the federal government if there is a natural disaster.

AgriRecovery initiatives are cost-shared on a 60-40 basis between the federal government and participating provinces or territories. Minister Bibeau said that the federal government will provide its 60 per cent share of the funding to all provinces and territories regardless of whether provinces and territories are able to contribute.

Minister Bibeau said that the federal government will provide its 60 per cent share of the funding to all provinces and territories regardless of whether provinces and territories are able to contribute.

For producers to access AgriRecovery, they do not need to be enrolled in AgriStability.

$50-million Surplus Food Purchase Program

Of the $252 million pledged, $50 million will go toward a first-of-its-kind fund designed to help redistribute existing and unsold agricultural inventories. The Surplus Food Purchase Program will redistribute products, such as potatoes and poultry, to local food organizations.

Minister Bibeau stated that the government will be having conversations with food banks and industries to find where the biggest surpluses are and then match what’s available with the needs across the country.

“It’s not as simple as saying we’re going to buy ‘this much,’” noted Minister Bibeau during the press conference, adding that packaging, distribution, and transportation logistics are also being discussed.

“It’s not as simple as saying we’re going to buy ‘this much,’” noted Minister Bibeau during the press conference, adding that packaging, distribution, and transportation logistics are also being discussed.

Several industries, such as processing potatoes and mushrooms, have been particularly hard hit by restaurants closing and limiting their operations. However, Bibeau emphasized that what will be purchased will be decided by the food banks and the idea behind the fund is to meet the demand from food banks and to direct it to the right places across Canada.

Extending AgriStability

The federal government announced it is working with provinces and territories to increase interim payments to 70 per cent from 50 per cent through AgriStability. AgriStability is federal, provincial and territorial program that supports producers facing revenue declines. Some provinces have already enacted today’s announced change.

British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta have all already agreed to the 75 per cent AgriStability interim payment.

British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta have all already agreed to the 75 per cent AgriStability interim payment.

The enrolment deadline for the 2020 AgriStability program has been extended to July 3, 2020.

Annually, the federal, provincial and territorial governments invest, on average, close to $1.6 billion in business risk management programs such as AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, and AgriRecovery.

Potential to include labour shortages in AgriInvest programming

In addition to the many funds, the federal government is working with provinces and territories to explore the possibilities for expanding the AgriInsurance program to include labour shortages as an eligible risk for the horticulture sector.

This work with provincial and territorial partners would insure against lost production due to an insufficient workforce, if producers are unable to find enough labour to harvest.

The horticulture sector has been significantly impacted by a temporary foreign worker ban that delayed the arrival seasonal workers ahead of the growing season. Despite the ban being lifted, the sector still faces labour shortages and delays.

Minister Bibeau noted that Canada welcomed 11,300 temporary foreign workers in April, just shy of its normal amount of 13,000 temporary foreign workers this time last year.

Minister Bibeau noted that Canada welcomed 11,300 temporary foreign workers in April, just shy of its normal amount of 13,000 temporary foreign workers this time last year.

The federal government currently has a $50 million in place to help employers follow all necessary measures to safely welcome temporary foreign workers. The federal government will provide support of $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker, to employers or those working with them, to ensure mandatory requirements put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are fully met.

“I want to reassure all our farmers and agri-business owners across the agri-food industry that our government fully understands that they are essential to our communities and that we are fully engaged to help them through this unprecedented period. We are grateful for the dedication of our hard working food workers – from the farm to the retail store – every day to ensure we continue to have food on our family tables. This support will help food producers and processors to continue providing the food Canadians need, and help ensure food availability for all Canadians in these uncertain times,” added Minister Bibeau in a released statement.

Future intentions

In addition to the above announcements, the government announced their intention to increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit by $200 million to support costs associated with the temporary storage of cheese and butter to avoid food waste. The government will work with opposition parties to achieve the required legislative change.

The Prime Minister also announced that the federal government intends to propose an additional $200 million in borrowing capacity for the sector.