The Ontario government is providing $10 million to allow more farmers and agri-food operators to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), enhance cleaning and disinfection measures, and redesign workstations to better protect workers.
Under the new Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program (EAWPP), farms and agri-food businesses that hire three or more employees will be eligible for funding.
Additional businesses and workers will be eligible including: corn detasselers, transporters, hatcheries, and primary processing (i.e., cutting, cleaning, packaging, storage and refrigeration of raw plant foods).
Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), says it is critical that the government takes every step possible to protect worker health and safety, while ensuring the province’s food producers continue operating.
“The men and women on our farms and in the agri-food sector are essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic and deserve our support and appreciation,” Hardeman explains.
The funding will help farmers who experience unexpected costs for short-term or temporary housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-farm employees. In addition, increased flexibility has been built into the program to ensure it can respond to emerging issues and risks.
Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) says they encourage farm businesses struggling with PPE shortages to utilize these resources to “protect the health and safety of our essential workforce,” adding that extending funding and access to this program will help address concerns they’ve heard from farmers.
Detailed program information and application forms will be available when the intake opens on April 22, 2021 and will cover costs retroactive to March 13, 2021. Applications will be accepted while funding is available or until November 30, 2021. The approval process has been simplified and will be expedited to help support workplace health and safety in the agri-food sector.
The announcement is a part of Ontario’s 2021 budget plan.