Glacier FarmMedia – The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) wants the federal government to immediately prioritize food production by creating an emergency fund or financial backstop for farmers as part of its response to COVID-19.
“We must ensure Canada’s domestic food supply is secure, not only for the duration of this battle, but long into the future as well,” said CFA president Mary Robinson.
She said her organization, which represents roughly 200,000 farm families, does not want to create panic. But action is needed.
“It would be irresponsible not to sound the alarm about the realities Canadian farmers are facing in times of economic crisis and global uncertainty,” Robinson said during a virtual press conference. “Canadians have always been able to depend on farmers to do what we do best – grow food. Today, Canadian farmers need immediate meaningful help from our federal government to continue fulfilling that responsibility.”
- Read more: Trudeau pledges $252 million in COVID-19 aid for farmers, processors
- Read more: COVID-19 aid ‘falls short,’ farm groups warn
Ongoing labour shortages, unpredictable global markets and increasing costs are all being raised as concerns by the CFA.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has warned there could be changes to the way Canada’s food supply looks in coming months.
“It’s a possibility that the variety of products that we find on our shelves might be a bit different. For a while, it’s a possibility, but I do not worry that we won’t have enough food,” she said, adding there may be changes in prices as well.
Robinson says the foundation of Canada’s food supply is at a “tipping point” and echoed Bibeau’s warnings.
“If we do not as a nation address the rising challenges immediately, Canadian consumers could see a decrease in the amount and variety of food at their local grocery stores, as well as higher prices in the months ahead,” she said. “These are without question extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures. Farming families need immediate help and support to ensure our domestic food supply remains reliable and secure for Canadians coast to coast.”
Bibeau and her federal counterparts have suggested Ottawa’s immediate responses to the pandemic were aimed at supporting people and businesses who had lost their revenues or wages.
Now, according to Bibeau, “we are getting at a point to support specific sectors and food is definitely identified as a priority.”
The CFA hopes support comes in the form of financial backing.
“Canadian farmers need to hear a clear commitment from government to instil in them the necessary confidence for the 2020 planting season. Clearly, government officials must focus on the recovery of people who are suffering from COVID as well as preventing the spread of this pandemic. But government must also ensure they are being strategic with regard to domestic food security,” said Robinson, before calling on Canadians to contact their elected officials on the issue.
To date, the federal government has invested $50 million to help producers and processors pay for the impact of COVID-19 on their temporary foreign workers and $20 million to ensure inspections at processing plants continue.
The United States has committed $9.5 billion to support farmers being impacted by the pandemic.