New funding to secure Canada’s food supply

Beef Cattle on a Chatham-Kent farm. (File photo by Simon Crouch)

It is the food producers’ turn to get help from the federal government, and Ottawa is investing a total of $252 million to ensure workers are safe, the food supply is secure, and surplus food does not go to waste.

Food producers will get $77 million to buy personal protective equipment for their workers and adapt to social distancing guidelines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that money would also help food producers whose workers live in close quarters, like those at operations like Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge. The pandemic has battered the Chatham-Kent greenhouse after 51 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Provinces regulate bunkhouses, but he said the federal government is working with provincial governments.

Another $125 million will help beef and pork producers care for animals until the processors can slaughter them.

In High River, Alberta, over 900 workers have tested positive for the virus at the Cargill facility. Workers there began to return to work Monday after the outbreak that killed one staff member.

The federal government also announced a surplus food purchasing program. The $50 million program will buy surplus products like milk from farmers who saw a substantial portion of their market dry up when hotels and restaurants closed at the start of the pandemic. The food will be given to organizations across the country that feed the less fortunate.

Still, many farmers are concerned about the long-term implications after disruptions in supply chains. For them, Trudeau pledged his government is working with the provinces to find solutions.

He also emphasized Tuesday’s funding is an initial investment, and if the agriculture sector needs more help, it will be given.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has suggested the industry may need $2.6 billion to survive the pandemic and return to prosperity afterwards.