Government investing $11.6 million to assist Ontario farmers during COVID-19

Investment to help farmers Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will invest an additional $11.6 million to help Ontario farmers.

Under a new agreement between Ontario and the federal government, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will invest an additional $11.6 million for necessary actions and upgrades needed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on Ontario farms.

These include HVAC system upgrades, enhancing handwashing stations, building physical barriers, and more. The funding builds on the $15 million Ontario has invested to support local farmers and producers through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.

“Agri-food workers are essential to our local tender fruit, vineyard, nursery, and greenhouse operations in Niagara West,” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West. “This investment will support our local producers in their efforts to ensure health and safety on their farms.”

Under the expanded program, the amount farmers can claim will double to $15,000.

The program will also include a new category for small capital projects of up to $100,000 for housing modifications, workplace modifications and equipment to allow greater physical distancing for workers.
This added funding for enhanced worker and workplace safety builds on numerous government actions taken this year to support Ontario farms and other agri-food sector businesses.

The federal funding that will be delivered by Ontario is in addition to the Ontario government’s commitment in June of up to $15 million to support workplace safety enhancements in the sector through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.

Sam Oosterhoff
Niagara west MPP Sam Oosterhoff

With the new investment, farmers can now claim up to $15,000 to enhance COVID-19 prevention methods on their farms. Small businesses may also have the option to receive up to $100,000 for housing, workplace, and equipment modification projects to improve physical distancing for workers.

This funding builds on the support the Canadian government has provided throughout this pandemic to help protect and support Ontario farms and agri-food sector businesses.

These include:  

  • A $50 million federal funding to help agri-food sectors cover costs associated with the mandatory 14-day isolation period through
  • Investing up to $77.5 million through the federal Emergency Processing Fund to help companies make changes to protect the health and safety of workers during COVID-19.
  • Increasing funding for the Ontario Risk Management Program by $50 million starting in 2020 to help farmers deal with the market challenges resulting from COVID-19.
  • Increasing the amounts farmers can receive in AgriStability interim payments to 75 per cent of their estimated final payment.
  • Building a Canada-Ontario AgriRecovery program for hog and cattle to help cover increased costs of feeding animals due to COVID-19 related processing delays.
  • Enhancing the AgriInsurance coverage to include labour shortages due to COVID-19 during the 2020 growing season.
  • Launching an online toolkit with information on prevention, accommodations, wages, social, health and wellness assessments, and social supports that are available to farmers and their workers.
  • Providing red-tape relief by extending more than 20 licenses or permit regulations covering the agri-food sector during the period covered by COVID-19 emergency orders.
  • The Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program and the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund would also work in concert with other federal/provincial/territorial efforts and other federal programs to mitigate and limit the spread of COVID-19 among agri-food workers.

“We’re committed to ensuring farmworkers can do their jobs safely, and that they are able to continue to provide Ontario families with safe, high-quality food,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.