Food producers still in dire need of help in light of COVID-19
Food In Canada
Fruit & Vegetables
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
May 25, 2020, Regina, Sask. – Canada’s food producers are urgently asking for more help from the government amid supply chain interruptions, labour shortages and mounting costs, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
In fact, new survey results reveal only 29 per cent of farmers say the federal emergency funding that was recently announced will be helpful for their agri-business.
“We are hearing heartbreaking stories about farmers having to plow down crops, destroy produce, or contemplate putting down their livestock due to reduced capacity at processing facilities or changes in market demand brought on by COVID-19,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president of Western Canada and agri-business. “The government needs to move fast and provide more support for the entire industry to protect Canada’s food supply.”
The federal government announced $252 million in emergency funding to help farmers and processing facilities adapt to the pandemic and $5 billion in increased lending capacity through Farm Credit Canada. CFIB also recognizes the government’s hard work in ensuring temporary foreign workers can come for the critical planting season and helping farmers offset the cost of quarantining workers for two weeks. The new three-year Agri-Food Pilot will also help fill ongoing labour needs and provide a pathway to permanent residency which CFIB has advocated for in the past.
“We understand there are enormous challenges in designing support programs and getting them out quickly, so we appreciate the government’s willingness to change and improve emergency programs such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), based on feedback from small businesses and groups like CFIB,” added Braun-Pollon.
Unfortunately, food producers say the effects of the pandemic will be felt for many seasons to come and that the recent emergency relief announcements and current programs will not work for most. CFIB’s surveys found that:
- 42 per cent of farmers in the livestock sector said the emergency relief will be helpful for their agri-business, while almost 50 per cent said it will not be helpful;
- 25 per cent of fruit, vegetables and horticultural farms and 28 per cent of food product processing say the emergency relief will be helpful;
- 48 per cent of farmers are worried about debt;
- 40 per cent of agri-business owners are worried the “new normal” will not be sustainable for their business.
“While the $252 million in emergency funding is a good first step, these survey results indicate there is much more needed to address the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on the agriculture sector,” noted Braun-Pollon. “The federal government has indicated ‘these measures are an initial investment and if we need to add more we will’ – well the time is now to do more.”
To support farmers, CFIB urges the federal government to immediately act on the following:
- provide additional emergency funding to the agriculture sector to offset lost income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic;
- improve current Business Risk Management Programs to ensure they are timely, responsive, effective and transparent;
- reduce red tape and barriers to interprovincial trade in agri-food products
- while it is too late for some agri-businesses, continue to negotiate and work closely with key source countries for temporary foreign workers;
- exempt propane, natural gas and aviation fuel used for farming activities from the federal carbon tax;
- continue to focus on trade and market access for all Canadian agri-food products.
The CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members (including 7,200 agri-businesses) across every industry and region.