By: Sam Juric
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is calling on the federal government to give more support to the industry during COVID-19.
The federation’s president, Islander Mary Robinson who also runs a farm in Albany, P.E.I., says several commodities have been impacted by a drop in demand as a result of restaurants closing in response to the pandemic.
Robinson said the federal government needs to make farming a priority as it is an issue that affects all Canadians.
“The uncertainty really is what’s going to happen this summer, when we’ve got a crop in the ground and a farm is impacted by COVID and that farm is unable to harvest its crop. What’s going to happen to that producer?”
The federation has put together an emergency preparedness document for the federal government, which calls for a stimulus and personal protective equipment for those working in the farming and processing industries, she said.
Robinson said while $50 million has been allocated to help cover the costs of self-isolation for temporary foreign workers, it was concerning to see $500 million given to sports and culture.
“That really is very frustrating for farmers to listen to … where are our priorities here?” Robinson said.
“We’ve seen other industries given security and assurances by our federal government,” she said. “But farmers are really looking to our prime minister to say domestic food production has to be a priority and we have to give producers the confidence to move forward.”
Robinson said millions of dollars have been invested on P.E.I. and across the country in seed and fertilizer together with fuel and labour, but the federal government needs to ensure those resources are able to move forward.
“Every day we need to eat, regardless if we’re well or not well. What we need to have is assurances that those producers are going to be able to continue to do what we always rely on them to do, which is grow affordable, healthy, available food,” she said.
“It’s time for action.”
Robinson said Canada needs to acknowledge the important role domestic food growers and producers fulfil. Canadians can’t rely on other countries to feed them.
“I think we just have to look at what happened with 3M and the N95 masks and realize that the only thing we can bank on is what we have domestically.”
By the end of “this marathon of a fight,” Robinson said the government will have spent billions on getting industries through.
She also noted that Canada remains one of the top-five food exporters in the world, which could be used to the country’s advantage.
“We have opportunity there economically and I think we also have an obligation morally, to make sure the rest of the world gets fed.”
This week a spokesperson for Agriculture and Agri-food Canada told CBC the federal government is developing a new aid package for the agriculture sector, with an announcement expected soon.