The Canadian and Ontario governments are investing more in protections for farm workers.
The additional $11.6 million aims to help support Ontario producers to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their farms.
Why it matters: Ontario farmers have incurred significant costs since COVID-19 meant infections on some farms, especially for seasonal foreign workers.
The funds will be available for physical barriers for worker separation, upgrading HVAC systems and enhancing hand-washing facilities through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program.
Farms can claim up to $15,000, which doubles the previous expense limit of $7,500. Ontario invested $15 million in June and that program was retroactive to the start of emergency measures related to COVID-19 worker protections and Ontario’s Minster of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman says that the new funds will apply to expenses from the start of emergency measures.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said in announcing the program that foreign workers have been critical to Ontario’s harvest and ensuring Canada’s food security.
Bibeau says farms deemed highest risk will be prioritized for funding.
Applications to the program are now open through the Ontario government. Bibeau announced $35 million in funding for workers across Canada last week. In those provinces the program is administered by the federal government.
Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federal of Agriculture says that the funds will help farmers struggling to implement measures to accommodate increased requirements for labour during the pandemic. Mental stress on farm workers and owners has been significant, says Currie.
“This funding will go a long way to help support farm businesses of all sizes, adding much needed stability to the workplace,” he says.
Bibeau says that the federal government is working on new standards for foreign worker housing.