Federal government announces measures to assist farmers through COVID-19 crisis

OTTAWA – The federal government is taking steps to allow temporary foreign workers to enter the county in order to facilitate vital agri-business.

“The participation of temporary foreign workers on our farms and our food businesses is absolutely necessary. It is nothing less than an issue of food security,” Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau. “We are making sure that our food supply chain is not compromised by the closure of our borders, as we now need thousands of workers on the farms for the planting season as well as the processing of foods from the land and sea.”

Measures announced on March 20 will exempt certain workers  to a Transport Canada  rule that foreign nationals can’t board flights into Canada other than trans-border flights.Exemptions to that rule will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home. Travel by temporary foreign workers will also be considered essential travel for land border restrictions.

Bibeau said the government will work closely with employers to ensure protocols are in place for workers upon their arrival in Canada, to avoid any health risks. In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad will be required to isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

“There will always be opportunities available for Canadians interested in stepping forward to work on our farms and in food processing plants,” said Bibeau, noting the over 60,000 temporary foreign workers who come to Canada to work in the agriculture and agri-food sector “are crucial to our food security and our rural economies.”

Bibeau said the measure will ensure Canadians will have continued access to healthy and affordable Canadian food when they go to the grocery store.

On March 23 the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new measures to support farmers and agri-food businesses in Canada facing financial hardship due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farm Credit Canada will receive support from the Government of Canada that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors.

“This will offer increased flexibility to farmers who face cashflow issues and to processors who are impacted by lost sales, helping them remain financially strong during this difficult time,”  states a federal government press release.

In addition, all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program (APP) loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan. This measure, represents $173 million in deferred loans, to “help keep more money in farmers’ pockets during these critical months,” the release states.

Eligible farmers who still have interest-free loans outstanding will have the opportunity to apply for an additional $100,000 interest-free portion for 2020-2021, as long as their total APP advances remain under the $1 million cap.