The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has put a number on the emergency fund it wants the federal government to provide for the agriculture and food industry: $2.6 billion.
CFA says this amount is based on estimates of the immediate impacts of COVID-19 provided by agricultural commodity groups across the country. The emergency fund is required, the CFA says, because of the shut down of the food service sector, processing plant closures, and other supply chain disruptions and increases in labour and associated costs. The farm organization adds that the $2.6 billion figure is only to end of April — additional costs will continue to mount as farmers deal with the impacts of COVID-19, highlighting the continued importance of enhancing AgriStability support.
This emergency fund for immediate impacts of COVID-19 should only be seen as the first phase of emergency funding; additional funding will be required to maintain food security in Canada, CFA says.
“Imagine if six months ago someone had told Canada to stock up on face masks, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, our nation would be in a much stronger position to weather this storm. A month ago, we offered our government a similar warning for a different looming problem, the potential collapse of components of our food supply chain. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ could never be more true,” says Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Two weeks ago, the CFA formally asked for the establishment of an emergency fund to support Canada’s agriculture and food system, but did not include a monetary amount.
“Planting season is happening right now. Mother Nature waits for no one. Farmers need to have the financial confidence that they will not be facing bankruptcy due to impacts of COVID-19. Like the rest of the country, we’ve been watching our government announce new assistance for many other sectors almost daily since the pandemic began, and farmers are appalled as they watch an essential service and critical infrastructure such as food production and processing being largely ignored. The time for the government to act is now. Canadians should be concerned,” Robinson says.
In an effort to show Canadians’ support for the food industry, CFA has created a letter-writing campaign website to help Canadians show their support for Canadian food. CFA is asking farmers and members of the agri-food industry to email MPs to send a message on the importance of food security in Canada.