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Farmers still require urgent help amid supply chain interruptions, labour shortages and mounting costs

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Only 29 per cent of farmers say the $252M relief package will be helpful 

Regina, May 22, 2020 – Canada’s food producers are urgently asking for more help from the government amid supply chain interruptions, labour shortages and mounting costs, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). In fact, new survey results reveal only 29 per cent of farmers say the federal emergency funding that was recently announced will be helpful for their agri-business.

“We are hearing heart-breaking stories about farmers having to plough down crops, destroy produce, or contemplate putting down their livestock due to reduced capacity at processing facilities or changes in market demand brought on by COVID-19,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president of Western Canada and agri-business. “The government needs to move fast and provide more support for the entire industry to protect Canada’s food supply.”

The federal government announced $252M in emergency funding to help farmers and processing facilities adapt to the pandemic and $5B in increased lending capacity through Farm Credit Canada. CFIB also recognizes the government’s hard work in ensuring temporary foreign workers can come for the critical planting season and helping farmers offset the cost of quarantining workers for two weeks. The new 3-year Agri-Food Pilot will also help fill ongoing labour needs and provide a pathway to permanent residency which CFIB has advocated for in the past.

"We understand there are enormous challenges in designing support programs and getting them out quickly, so we appreciate the government’s willingness to change and improve emergency programs such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), based on feedback from small businesses and groups like CFIB," added Braun-Pollon.

Unfortunately, food producers say the effects of the pandemic will be felt for many seasons to come and that the recent emergency relief announcements and current programs will not work for most. CFIB’s surveys found that: 

  • 42 per cent of farmers in the livestock sector said the emergency relief will be helpful for their agri-business, while almost 50 per cent said it will not be helpful
  • 25 per cent of fruit, vegetables and horticultural farms and 28 per cent of food product processing say the emergency relief will be helpful
  • 48 per cent of farmers are worried about debt (long-term financial consequences of debt & depleted savings)
  • 40 per cent of agri-business owners are worried the “new normal” will not be sustainable for their business

“While the $252M in emergency funding is a good first step, these survey results indicate there is much more needed to address the devastating impacts of COVID -19 on the agriculture sector,” noted Braun-Pollon. “The federal government has indicated “these measures are an initial investment and if we need to add more we will” – well the time is now to do more.”

To support farmers, CFIB urges the federal government to immediately act on the following:

  1. Provide additional emergency funding to the agriculture sector to offset lost income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Improve current Business Risk Management Programs to ensure they are timely, responsive, effective and transparent
  3. Reduce red tape and barriers to interprovincial trade in agri-food products
  4.  While it is too late for some agri-businesses, continue to negotiate and work closely with key source countries for Temporary Foreign Workers
  5. Exempt propane, natural gas and aviation fuel used for farming activities from the federal carbon tax. 
  6. Continue to focus on trade and market access for all Canadian agri-food products.

“While a lot of economic activity has been frozen during the pandemic response, farmers can’t do that. Their animals still need to be fed and cared for. They have tight windows in which they can plant, harvest and get their product to market. Government needs to act quickly to ensure farmers have the support they need,” concluded Braun-Pollon.

For media enquiries or interviews with Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president, Western Canada & Agri-business, please call (306) 539-6302 or email [email protected]. You may follow CFIB Saskatchewan on Twitter @cfibsk. 

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members (including 7,200 agri-businesses) across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.