Week in review: March 25’s COVID-19 updates
By Stephanie Gordon
It’s been a week and there’s been a lot of news. Below are a selection of COVID-19 updates that happened this past week that impact fruit and vegetable producers across Canada.
Seasonal agricultural workers allowed into Canada
On March 20, the Canadian government formally included seasonal agricultural workers in its list of travel exemptions. This news comes after Canada closed its borders to non-essential travel and the agriculture industry faced uncertainties about whether or not temporary foreign workers would be allowed in.
Now it is up to all the farms and agri-food businesses who employ seasonal workers to work with their industry organizations (FARMS, WALI) and the provincial and federal governments to secure travel arrangements for workers. The workers will also be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival, and these logistics are also the responsibility of the employer.
Federal Agricultural Minsiter Marie-Claude Bibeau said that bringing seasonal workers into Canada has been an industry-led initiative, in addition to acknowledging that “the more than 60,000 temporary foreign workers who come to Canada to work in our agriculture and agri-food sector are crucial to our food security and our rural economies.”
$5 billion in additional lending available through FCC
On March 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Farm Credit Canada (FCC) will receive support from the Canadian government that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors.
Existing FCC customers, and non-FCC customers alike, are able to access different financial supports such as payment deferrals for existing loans or access to an additional credit line up to $500,000 to help manage cash flow during these times.
Other commercial banks have also been given more flexibility by the government to help Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, FCC collaborates with private banks so producers are encouraged first to go to their usual bank to discuss options.
Take CFA survey on business risk management programs
This week the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s survey focuses on business risk management (BRM) programs and the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the Canadian agri-food sector. Complete theFarmer Survey on COVID-19 before March 26 at 12:00 p.m. EST.
Access free business resources
Several organizations are offering resources online for free to help producers with farm safety, human resources, and more.
- Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) is offering their courses, CASA Tractor and Farm Machinery and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Health and Safety Orientation, free of charge until Sept. 30, 2020.
- The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is offering their AgriHR toolkit, a collection of tools and resources for managing employees in agriculture, free of charge for producers for one year.
- The Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario is hosting several webinars for its members including a CSA Pick-up and Distribution in a COVID-19 Reality on March 26 and 31.
Agriculture events have been cancelled
Like most events these days, several agriculture industry events have been cancelled or postponed. The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) also cancelled its annual CPMA Convention and Trade Show.
Agriculture and food production businesses remain essential
While events have been cancelled, agriculture and food production businesses will not be impacted by a mandatory closure of non-essential businesses for 14-days ordered by the Ontario government to limit the spread of COVID-19.
There was some discussion about whether or not farmers markets will be allowed to open, and as of March 25, both Ontario and B.C.’s ministers of agriculture have said that farmers markets will be allowed to operate for now but with additional conditions to ensure they’re safe.
Despite trying times, producers are still proving to be the backbone of the food system and going the extra mile when they can.
Canadian producers adapted to delivery/curb-side pick-up to ensure local food is supplied to their communities, donated to food banks, and worked long hours to meet demand. Here’s a few highlights to end this week in review:
Doing our part to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to have potatoes! 🥔👍👍 PLEASE remember the Food Banks!! pic.twitter.com/LZ86zvTxPQ
— Nick Ploeg (@NickPloeg) March 17, 2020
Nick Ploeg, a potato grower near Alliston, Ont., regularly donates to the local Alliston and Barrie food banks. He explained, “After the chaos of the first weekend of COVID-19, the food bank called looking for potatoes ASAP. So I took the opportunity to use Twitter to remind people food banks will need our help.”
A giant thank you, to our farmers and agri-food industry from our federal Minister of Agriculture & Food, @mclaudebibeau "Now more than ever…everyone can appreciate just how essential they are to our society." ❤ https://t.co/ajc8r4PHhL
— Cathy Lennon (@Cathy_Lennon) March 21, 2020
Your local farmers are working hard to keep the shelves stocked 👩🌾👨🌾🚜 pic.twitter.com/rUay4NvMBX
— BCfresh (@BCfreshVeggies) March 23, 2020
The Ontario Food Terminal will remain OPEN to provide a safe and reliable food supply of the freshest fruits, vegetables and produce to the people of Ontario!! #ontag #fresh #fruits #vegetables #produce #local pic.twitter.com/Mu3WHEhTqg
— OntarioFoodTerminal (@ONFoodTerminal) March 14, 2020
If you want to share a highlight, please tweet us @fruitandvegmag so we can share it!
Nominations for the Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture (IWCA) program, which recognizes women across Canadian agriculture, also close on March 27. The program is another opportunity for you to recognize the good work being done in the sector from on-farm to research.