Plant security check workers returning to the Cargill beef processing plant in High River, Alta., that was closed for two weeks because of COVID-19 Monday, May 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Feds to buy up surplus from Canadian agrifood producers as part of $252M investment

Trudeau announced an additional $200 million credit line for dairy producers

The federal government will invest $252 million in Canada’s agrifood industry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday (May 5).

The money will be split three ways: $125 million for beef, poultry and pork producers, $77 million for food processors and $50 million to buy up surplus food and avoid waste. Trudeau also announced an additional $200 million credit line for dairy producers.

“Unfortunately there’s been a number of farmers who’ve had to dispose of surplus food,” Trudeau acknowledged when asked if this program was too little, too late as farmers struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $125 million for producers is meant to cover the costs of cattle and pigs that must stay at the farm for longer, while the $77 million is partially to pay for personal protective equipment. Trudeau said about 90 per cent of expected temporary foreign workers have arrived this spring. Last month, the prime minister announced $50 million to help companies pay for the mandatory 14-day quarantine for workers entering the country.

However, the money announced Tuesday fell short of the $2.6 billion asked for by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. In a press release, the federation said urgent was help was needed now as planting season got underway.

“Farmers need to have the financial confidence that they will not be facing bankruptcy due to impacts of COVID-19,” said federation president Mary Robinson.

Trudeau said there would be more announcements about agriculture and food supply in the days and weeks to come.

At a later press conference, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the closures of many restaurants has had a negative impact on the food producers. Bibeau said the surplus food purchased by Ottawa would go towards food banks to help Canadians facing food insecurity during the pandemic.

Bibeau said the federal government would begin by speaking to food banks and producers to determine need and surplus.

Meat-packing workers still worried

The union that represents meat-packing workers at Cargill and JBS has argued that it is still not safe inside the facilities and more needs to be done.

“People are scared. They’re not coming to work,” said Thomas Hesse, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401. Workers at the Cargill plant in Alberta went back to work Monday, even though many remained concerned about COVID-19 spreading in the facility. More than 900 of 2,000 workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and one person has died.

The Agriculture Union, which represents federal food inspectors, said Trudeau’s announcement misses the mark and will do little to address cramped quarters in hallways, lunchrooms and washrooms at meat plants.

“If we had been consulted, we would have advised the federal government to get off the sidelines and exercise their responsibility and authority over federally regulated food processors when there are outbreaks, and to shut them down when they are not safe,” said union president Fabian Murphy.

“Generally speaking, a handout to processors is not going to solve the issue of protecting workers safety if they cannot access adequate personal protective gear.”

READ MORE: Canada unveils $50M boost to help agriculture sector with 14-day COVID-19 quarantine

READ MORE: B.C. egg, chicken farms facing down challenge of COVID-19

READ MORE: Two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Chilliwack poultry plant


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

AgricultureCoronavirusWhales

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

Just Posted

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read