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.
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.
Olymel temporarily closes due to COVID-19
This is a news release from Olymel L.P.
Olymel announces the temporary closing of its Red Deer plant
Olymel management is announcing the temporary closing of its hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plant in Red Deer, Alberta. Despite the testing protocols and sanitary measures already in place, as well as the close collaboration of Alberta Health Services to deal with a resurgence of positive cases of Covid-19 among plant employees, Olymel management believes that the conditions are no longer assembled to continue normal operations in a safe and efficient manner.
After notifying the union, Olymel management drew up an orderly temporary closing plan for an indefinite period. Over the next few days, plant management will mobilize the staff necessary to cease operations and complete the facility closure as soon as possible. The sanitary measures will continue to be in effect at the plant during the shutdown and Olymel management will be in contact with officials at Alberta Health Services to continue working closely with this organization.
Olymel sincerely hopes that all employees at the Red Deer plant who have tested positive for Covid-19 soon regain their health. The company will follow up with all employees to ensure their quarantine period is being respected and will strongly encourage all staff to get tested before returning to work. Olymel will also continue ongoing investigations to determine what may have caused such a large outbreak of Covid-19 cases since January 20.
Olymel management has also informed all hog suppliers of the Red Deer plant of the situation and has suspended all pending deliveries until further notice.
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