MARIE-CLAUDE Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced an investment of $4.9 million under the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund to help British Columbian farmers better protect the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This federal funding will be delivered by Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia (IAF).
Eligible activities include direct infrastructure improvements to living quarters and work stations, temporary or emergency housing (on or off-farm), as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary stations, work stations and any other health and safety measures that safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and temporary foreign workers from COVID-19.
Applications will be accepted through IAF’s portal from October 27 to November 17. Contributions under the program will be cost-shared 50:50 with the applicants, up to $100,000. An additional 10 per cent will be provided to women, youth, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities, amounting to a 60:40 split as the Government of Canada promotes and empowers underrepresented groups in the agricultural sector.
The IAF will deliver the program under two streams. Stream one will be available for recipients looking for reimbursements of already incurred costs whereas stream two targets recipients who are looking to undertake future projects. A flexible framework will help assess applications, considering the risk to the applicants’ workers.
Bibeau said: “Everyone needs to feel safe and supported when they go to work. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health of all farm workers who are working hard to feed Canadians has been a top priority. With this program, British Columbia farmers will have the support they need to ensure the right measures are in place to safeguard their employees’ health and safety and limit the spread of the virus.”
Don Low, Chair, Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia (IAF), said: “IAF is delighted to be able to respond quickly and assist AAFC deliver funding to B.C.’s agriculture industries in these challenging times. We are pleased the emergency on-farm support program has been established to directly address the urgent needs of our agriculture producers that are on the front-line of food production for our province and country. IAF is committed to helping industry access funding opportunities and delivering programs effectively and responsively.”
· The Emergency On-Farm Support Fund provides a $35 million investment across Canada to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19.
· The creation of this fund was first announced by Bibeau and Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, on July 31 along with increased supports to temporary foreign workers, strengthened employer inspections regime, and the development of improved employer-provided living accommodation requirements.
· IAF is an industry led, not for profit that delivers government funded programs to the agriculture and agri-food sector of British Columbia.
· The $4.9 million investment is based on an estimated 640 farmers applying.
- As part of its actions to protect the health and safety of foreign workers, the Government of Canada has been working with provinces and territories, as well as a range of partners and stakeholders, to ensure employers and temporary foreign workers are aware of their obligations and respect the rules in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”This announcement builds on the measures the Government has introduced to keep Canada’s agri-workforce strong, including:
- Travel exemptions for all migrant workers, including seasonal agricultural workers and fish/seafood workers.
- $50 million in funding for the Mandatory Isolation Support Program for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) to help protect the health and safety of migrant workers in farming, fish harvesting, and food production by helping processing sectors cover the incremental costs associated with the mandatory 14-day isolation period imposed under the Quarantine Act on migrant workers entering Canada.
- The Emergency Processing Fund (EPF), a one-time, federal investment of up to $77.5 million to help companies implement changes to safeguard the health and safety of workers and their families due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund also aims to aid companies to invest to improve, automate and modernize facilities needed to increase Canada’s food supply capacity.
- British Columbia produces more than 200 agriculture commodities and harvests 100 seafood species. In addition, B.C. has more than 1,500 businesses that produce foods and beverages ranging from breakfast cereal to wine to nutraceuticals.