Federal COVID-19 aid for agriculture 'profoundly underwhelming': B.C. fruit growers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Federal COVID-19 aid for agriculture 'profoundly underwhelming': B.C. fruit growers

The future of a safe, secure food supply is at risk, members B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association said today in response to the federal financial support package to agriculture. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today, May 5, a $252-million aid package for Canada's agriculture and food industries in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau said $77 million of that will go to measures to keep workers in food processing safe with protective equipment and by supporting physical distancing in workplaces.

Meat-packing plants, in particular, have seen large outbreaks of the virus that causes COVID-19. In B.C. there were seven confirmed positive cases at Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry, 54 at Superior Poultry in Coquitlam and 35 at United Poultry in Vancouver.

The package includes money for beef and pork producers holding animals they can't sell, a credit program for the dairy industry and a $50-million fund to buy food that spoils and send it to groups such as food banks.

Critics say the federal government’s agricultural aid package, however, overlooks fruit, vegetable and grain farmers and amounts to less than 10 per cent of the $2.6 billion in support the Canadian Federation of Agriculture has indicated is necessary to ensure the survival of the industry suffering from COVID-19.

The fruit growers' association called the financial support package "profoundly underwhelming."

“The announcement today addresses the immediate needs for the beef and livestock producers and processors, but has not addressed the immediate needs of the fruit, vegetable and grain sectors,” Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the fruit growers' association, said in a press release.

“We can’t underestimate the urgency of the need for immediate financial assistance to prevent the devastation of our industry sector. Our members are at a point where decisions are being made about whether they can even afford to produce their crops this year.” 

The association acknowledged previous actions and financial supports provided by the Canadian and B.C. governments that have allowed a late start to the arrival of temporary foreign workers, but many challenges remain both in terms of increased costs and securing adequate amounts of labour.

“The Canadian government needs to recognize that the reliable supply of food from other countries is at risk, and now more than ever there is a need to support a secure, safe food supply produced in Canada,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the fruit growers' association.

“We will continue to work with Agriculture Minister Bibeau, but our expectation is that she and her government will take a stronger stand to protect our agriculture production capacity in this country.”

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