(The Canadian Press)

Details on federal food buy-back program coming soon, Bibeau says

The funds won’t address the entirety of the problem facing farmers

Details of a program that will see the federal government buy surplus food from farmers and redistribute it to food banks and other community groups are coming soon, Liberal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau promised Tuesday.

The government announced the $50-million plan nearly a month ago as part of a suite of efforts to help the agricultural industry cope with the fallout from COVID-19.

Farmers are grappling with a surprise surfeit of products, as restaurants and the hospitality industry have largely shut down due to distancing restrictions. That means there’s more food than there are consumers.

Among the results: potatoes are piling up and going bad in warehouses, milk is being poured down drains and there are too many cattle and pigs for processors to handle.

At the same time, food banks and community groups had been reporting increased demand for assistance as millions of Canadians suddenly found themselves unemployed.

Bibeau said the final details of how to marry the over-supply of food with the increase in demand for help are being worked out now.

“It’s a matter of days before we inform everyone of the criteria of the programs but we have already started to work with the different industries who have surpluses that they can offer to the food-bank networks,” she said Tuesday.

The funds won’t address the entirety of the problem facing farmers; when it comes to potatoes alone, some 700 truckloads are currently going bad in New Brunswick alone, farmers there said late last week.

Those potatoes are last year’s crop. Farmers are now struggling with how much to plant this year given uncertain demand come harvest time.

Bibeau said there are other avenues available to the industry to deal with those pressures, pointing — again — to existing risk-management programs.

Bibeau has insisted that the $252-million aid package she rolled out for the industry last month could be increased if farmers took full advantage of the existing supports.

Those programs are cost-shared with the provinces, and Bibeau said talks continue with them to see if they’ll pony up more money this year.

But she said one element Ottawa won’t move ahead on is a carbon-tax rebate for grain farmers. They had argued the carbon tax was hurting their bottom lines, given the massive amount of energy needed to dry their product.

Bibeau said Tuesday an analysis by the federal agriculture department concluded the actual cost is minimal, less than half a per cent of operating expenses for farms.

Only some of the COVID-19 related funding the Liberals have rolled out to help farmers is new money.

On Tuesday, Bibeau announced that some previously announced cash was also now being made available to help with the issue of food security.

Approximately $43.4 million has been freed up out of the local food infrastructure fund, part of a five-year program that was launched as part of a broader federal food policy in 2019.

Altogether, $50 million was allocated to reduce food insecurity and the first round of proposals saw 362 projects receive a total of $6.6 million.

Bibeau announced the program would now take applications for the second round of funding.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Food Bank

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Police investigate July 2 homicide in Houston

Man succumbed to injuries at Pearson Road residence

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

RCMP patrol of smokehouse sparks concerns by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader

Hereditary Chief Woos says he is feeling uneasy after RCMP attended the smokehouse with rifles

Regional District approved for business liaison grant to assist with COVID-19 recovery

Grant offers each of the northern development regions up to $75,000 in funding

Lines getting painted

June 25 the Houston Mall had their parking lot painted with parking… Continue reading

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

Northern communities welcome tourists as province opens to in-B.C. travellers

Officials have asked British Columbians to be careful as they travel this summer

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read