Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his daily 11 am national address to announce $252 million in various funding and credit programs aimed at agriculture.
“Everyone working in the food industry is working harder than ever to fill the shelves of our grocery stores,” said Prime Minister Trudeau in French during the morning briefing.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture had asked for a $2.6 billion emergency fund for all of agriculture to cover lost revenue or added costs stemming from COVID-19.
The $252 million for the agri-food industry will be split in three: $77.5 million will be made available to food processors on a cost-share basis to fund safety improvements for their workers, and enable them to buy more personal protective equipment, adjust hygiene protocols or other measures, the prime minister says. This will allow processors to expand and adapt plants to produce more goods in Canada, he says.
AgriRecovery will receive $125 million in federal funds, with $50 million set for each of beef and pork farmers hard hit by the pandemic’s impact on processing. The up to $50 million is intended to help pay for the costs associated with animals staying on the farm longer, similar to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Associate ask for a cattle set aside program. The remaining $25 million is not committed to any one commodity or sector.
AgriRecovery program costs are normally shared between the federal and provincial governments, and triggered when the provinces or territories request the program due to a disaster. This announcement means the federal government is funding its portion, up to $125 million, regardless of whether or not the provinces choose to cost-share.
Trudeau says this is an initial investment. “If we have to add more, we will.”
The federal government will also use $50 million of the $252 million to help curb food waste, through a food purchasing and re-distribution program, for things like dairy, potatoes, and poultry currently in surplus, in support of Canada’s food banks.
Also announced, the federal government says it intends to increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s credit line by up to $200 million to further store more butter and cheese. The government says it intends to work with opposition parties to make the required legislative changes for this.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced some additional updates following the prime minister’s speech, including that the AgriStability enrolment deadline has been extended to July 3, 2020, and an online AgriStability Benefit Calculator has been launched. Interim AgriStability payments will also be increased from 50 to 75 percent for producers who face significant revenue declines.