Canadian Federal Government Taking Measures to Reduce Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture
On April 13, the Canadian Federal Government announced the distribution of federal funds to assist farms in paying temporary workers. This monetary assistance helps compensate workers during the quarantine.
Canada, especially Western Canada, is grappling with the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the 2020 growing season. Western Canada accounts for over 80% of farmable land, and the industry is heavily reliant on beef and pork exports, especially to the United States. With production and processing facilities shut down, companies are experiencing complications in distribution, which may have a significant impact on the supply chain in the upcoming months.
Labour shortages are the main issue for most farms, both in the field and in processing facilities. Many enterprises are reliant on migrant farmworkers, who travel seasonally to Canada, primarily from Mexico and Jamaica. With many farms experiencing a delay in worker arrivals and a decrease in the number of workers available, perishable crops are especially susceptible to production issues down the road.
Over 60,000 temporary, seasonal workers migrate to Canada annually for employment. Many workers are employed by the same farm year after year, receiving industry-specific training from vegetable production to winemaking. For farmers who rely on this labor, the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult. Especially when dealing with perishable crops, labor shortages can be the deciding factor in a crop’s. For one farmer, a field of asparagus is worth $40,000. But without the necessary labor to harvest, the crop will go to waste.
Labour shortages in Canadian agriculture are especially tricky because there is no natural alternative. Many farmers already express frustration with the system, since the main reason they employ temporary migrant workers is because it is nearly impossible to find Canadians who want the job. Agricultural labor can be incredibly hard work and involves significant training.
Trained employees are familiar with all aspects of the business, including the proper use of equipment, which can be a tricky skill to master. As unemployment rises in response to COVID-19 business shutdowns, it may seem like an obvious solution to employ people on farms. But most people lack the skills necessary, and farmers do not have the time or resources to train them quickly.
As a possible solution, the Canadian Federal Government proposed new funding to assist farms struggling with income disruption as a result of the pandemic. However, the effectiveness of the bailout is debatable. Many farmers argue that it is not enough to make a difference. The money is supposed to help pay workers during the shutdown, specifically workers who have recently arrived and are in quarantine.
Because all incoming employees are subject to a two week isolation period, farms are responsible for supplying resources until work can begin. However, migrant worker activists argue that the funds may be misused, allowing farmers to collect the money without providing adequate income for workers. The distribution method may assist farms in the short term, but it is questionable as to how much it will help in the upcoming weeks.
It is still too early to tell the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian food production. Certain crops, like wheat and soy, are already operated in industrial systems, requiring minimal human contact. However, fruit and vegetable farmers are warning of production issues if they continue to struggle to find workers. Similarly, in the meat industry, beef processing facilities, like Cargill, may struggle to keep up with demand amidst closures.
Before the announcement of new funds for temporary workers, the Canadian Federal Government had initially temporarily banned incoming migrant workers. This decision was quickly reversed due to outcry from Canadian farmers. While the monetary assistance is significant for farm businesses in the short term, more lasting solutions to the labour shortage problem will be required. Without enough workers, Canada is subject to an incredibly volatile market, where production and distribution issues may impact food supply both domestically and internationally.
Next Steps for Canadian Agriculture
The Canadian Federal Government is taking measures to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture, primarily through the distribution of emergency funds to support farmers during the shutdown. Additional solutions, such as alternative labour resources, are also being considered. However, there has been a mixed response to these efforts.
Some farmers feel like the aid is not enough, while others think that the solutions do not apply to them. Additionally, there has been a growing concern by some activist groups concerning the rights of migrant workers. As the situation unfolds, the role of the Canadian Federal Government will be essential to limiting supply chain disruption and production issues in the next few months.
Read more from Emily Folk
I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation. You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.
City Council urged to get back to the table to vote on future of Westerner Park
Letter submitted by Lyn Radford (Chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games)
Lack of Council Leadership or Election Posturing?
In this unprecedented time of the pandemic, of polarized political views I have tried to stay out of commenting on decisions our political leaders have to make. We all know there is not usually a clear-cut answer. But this delay situation by City Council regarding the Westerner clearly baffles me.
First, I want to send out a thank you to both the Westerner and City Administration for their hard work and excellent reports and options for this very unfortunate situation. Second, I want to thank the Westerner Board for not running from a situation but rather staying to try to sort out a mess. As a volunteer myself, I know this has not been an easy situation for you and your families. I also want to acknowledge Councillors Wyntjes and Dawe for wanting to move this forward, whatever their decision would have been.
The City’s Vision Statement and Strategic Goals clearly lays out a pathway to help guide Council to make a positive, community benefiting decisions. “Innovative Thinking, Inspired Results, Vibrant Community” are their key words.
Strategic Goal #4 “A chosen destination: We are a four-season destination where visitors and residents enjoy our parks, trails and distinctive amenities, all within our “city in a park”. Centrally located in the province, we attract events that generate investment and enhance our community identity.
My question is how by delaying a decision does City Council justify following their Vision Statement and Strategic Goals.
I add these queries and statements:
- You have had more than year to gather information, make enquiries, have closed council information sessions, spoke to community members, and should have delved into this. You received the report far in advance of the special session and should have come ready for a decision without delay. Why did this not happen?
- The City has been locked and instep with the Westerner in the last year. The Westerner has fulfilled all requests and have been measured through two (very expensive) audits by Deloitte.
- There is over $3.5 million generously donated by a private family, held in trust for the Westerner Foundation, that could be doubled with a potential matching grant that will be dispersed upon a sustainable decision for Westerner Park, if a deal has been reached by May 15th. And our community will most likely lose this because of this delay. Sad.
- If CIBC closes on the loan for default (community this is very, very real), there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars spent putting this into receivership, of which our community will have no gain or say. And further, we will not have an event center capable of hosting the economic driver our community so sorely needs right now, as we know what the vacant downtown and business parks are looking like today.
- How much staff time has been spent already? Spend more money delaying a decision, no matter what the cost?
- Twice, not just once, in your session, councillors questioned the capabilities of the Westerners CEO. Did you not have time in the closed sessions to request a character assessment? Do councillors feel this was the right, very public forum for this? Rather than being able to say you did your due diligence in a professional and respective manner?
- Through the whole poor decision making by the Westerner Board that brought this terrible situation forward, there were three members of today’s council that actively sat on the Westerner Board. Maybe some ownership needs to happen here and a review of the responsibility process for Councillors to be revisited, giving a level of responsibility to council. If you want to sit at the table, then accept all the responsibility as every other board member has had to do.
- Further, the initial loan that started this process way back in 2017 and subsequent refinancing all had to be signed through a tri-party agreement by the City of Red Deer, fully knowing that this result could happen. Why is there any hesitation here?
- The window of borrowing from the province is very small now, missing this will create more costs.
- The Westerner annually, has been contributing a $150 million/year economic impact to our community. They were one of the largest employer’s, well over 600 employees each year and then add all the employees of the supporting vendors, we can comfortably say that in a year well over a thousand of our community members that pay property taxes are impacted by the Westerner directly.
- The Westerner has been a volunteer ran organization for 130 years. These volunteers and eventually along with paid staff have contributed so much to our “vibrant community”, building an asset value of over $57 Million dollars. This is a big bump but not a mountain, lets deal with it.
- No matter who you are or what your interests are, the Westerner has been providing experiences for us for 130 years – concerts, sporting events, rodeo events, fairs, shopping opportunities, cultural experiences, first jobs, first dates, health fairs, Agri trade, a place to first learn to drive, the day you wed, celebrating the season, ringing the New Year……all for our community
In conclusion, what we need right now is Council members to host a special meeting immediately and make a decision one way or another. I sincerely hope the decision will be to support, empower, trust and not control or try to compete with the community run Westerner Board, volunteers, and staff to rebuild a “distinct community amenity”. It can become a strong thriving contributing member of our broken community once again. We are in need of some strong leadership.
Carbon Tax and Clean Fuel Standard a double blow to Canadian farmers
This post is submitted by Red Deer Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen
MP DREESHEN TABLES PETITION ON CARBON TAX
AND CLEAN FUEL STANDARD IN HOUSE OF COMMONS
MP Earl Dreeshen tabled a petition in the House of Commons today, on Canada’s Agriculture Day, calling on the Liberal government to exempt all direct and indirect input costs that the Carbon Tax imposes on farmers, while also calling on the government to repeal the Clean Fuel Standard.
“Canadian farmers and ranchers are losing tens-of-thousands of dollars in net income each year because of the Liberal government’s ill-conceived carbon tax and that is simply not sustainable for most of them,” MP Dreeshen said.
‘Our global competitors are not burdened by the huge carbon tax debt. But Canadian farmers and ranchers do not have the ability to add the carbon tax levy to the price of their product. They have to pay this tax as it is levied by their input suppliers. Exempting input costs will put Canadian farmers on an equal footing with their international competitors and allow them to keep producing the world’s best and most nutritious foods.”
The Liberal government announced at the end of last year that the carbon tax will triple to $170 per tonne by 2030 following a commitment made in the last election that the tax would not increase beyond $50 per tonne. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a farm in Alberta with 850 seeded acres of crops can expect the Liberal government’s carbon tax cost it more than $17,000 per year once the tax reaches $50 per tonne in 2022.
The Liberal government is also proceeding with the so-called Clean Fuel Standard, which some studies estimate will represent a total cost to the Canadian economy of $7 to $15 billion and 50,000 lost jobs, including an impact of $389 million to the Agricultural sector. “Nobody needs or wants an extra tax on top of another tax so we need to repeal the CFS before it even gets off the ground,” MP Dreeshen said.
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