Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government will provide $ 252 million in new federal assistance to Canadian farmers and other agri-food stakeholders whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to help redistribute food and better protect plant processing workers.
Although already some industry stakeholders say this new funding is “well below” what is needed.
In this context, the government will spend:
$ 77 million to help food processors purchase protective equipment for workers, adapt to health protocols such as physical distance, and increase national processing capacity to increase the amount of food made in Canada;
$ 125 million to help cattle and hog producers who raise more animals than can currently be processed due to COVID-19 and, as a result, are seeing their costs rise because they keep these animals longer ; and
$ 50 million for a food surplus program that will allow the government to purchase large quantities of surplus food and redistribute it in areas where food insecurity is a problem, to avoid throwing food away and to allow producers to be further compensated.
Among the challenges for those working to feed Canadians are changing demands due to the closure of many restaurants, the lack of staff to work during the current planting season and the closure of some processing plants , which leads to supply problems.
“It is not a perfect situation in any way. But we are doing what we can to make sure that people are rewarded for their hard work and that others are not hungry, “said Trudeau when announcing Rideau Cottage.
Thanking those working to make sure the grocery store shelves are filled, the Prime Minister said that Canadians spend more time in the kitchen, “trying to make sourdough” or cooking for a neighbor age.
“These days in particular, cooking and baking are not just about food. It’s also about relieving stress, finding a community, supporting each other and creating memories. You are helping to make this happen, ”said Trudeau.
The federal government has already provided $ 50 million to help cover the costs of recruiting temporary workers and their accommodation in isolation for 14 days before they start farming, and some in the area would be eligible for certain other programs. assistance to businesses, but Minister of Agriculture Marie -Claude Bibeau continued to say that more would be done.
“We know that farmers still have concerns about what this pandemic means to their industry in the long term … And I can assure you that we are working with farmers, stakeholders and the provinces and territories to find lasting solutions”, said Trudeau on Tuesday. “This is an initial investment and if we need to add more, we will do it.”
THE AG GROUP SAYS “DISCOURAGING” FINANCING
Last week, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture asked the federal government to provide $ 2.6 billion to the sector through an emergency fund to maintain food security. The amount was based on estimates of the immediate impacts of the pandemic across the country, such as the closure of much of the food service sector and disruptions in the supply chain, the organization said in a statement. .
Responding to the announcement in a CTV News Channel interview, Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Mary Robinson said the package unveiled by Trudeau was “well below” what was needed, citing examples of some agricultural industries facing the slaughter of their herds or the loss of whole crops because they do not have the job to harvest it.
“We certainly hoped to see something much more meaningful,” said Robinson. “We are very concerned about the ability of farmers to survive this – and I want to make it clear that farmers are very proud people and generally do not ask for help, and it is disheartening to receive such a small amount in this announcement today. . “
Robinson compared the amount to a bucket of water to put out a burning house and said she hoped there would be follow-up announcements soon.