ONTARIO — The governments of Canada and Ontario are providing the best support possible to help farmers manage challenges beyond their control by enhancing AgriInsurance coverage for the 2020 growing season to include labour shortages due to COVID-19.
Ontario’s agriculture industry, specifically farms growing fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, melons and peaches, are labour intensive and highly dependent on seasonal agricultural workers. COVID-19 has interrupted regular flows of worker travel and has resulted in some gaps in labour availability. This could result in some crops being unharvested and financial loss for the agri-food industry.
The federal government made a commitment on May 5 to work with the provinces and territories to explore possibilities for expanding the AgriInsurance program to include labour shortages as an eligible risk for the horticulture sector. This work with provincial and territorial partners would insure against lost production due to an insufficient workforce, should producers be unable to find enough labour to harvest.
“During these exceptional times, we fully appreciate just how essential our agri-food workers are to our entire food supply chain,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “Our Government has been working hard with the provinces and agri-food businesses to ensure those workers have a safe workplace so they can continue putting food on our tables. I congratulate Ontario for being the first province to take this important step that recognizes the hardships Ontario farmers and food producers have faced because of worker shortages, and gives them the added support they need.”
“We recognize that this terrible virus has created new business pressures and increased uncertainty for farmers, which is why we are taking action to ensure farmers have the resources they need to address today’s challenges,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “By enhancing AgriInsurance coverage to include labour shortages due to COVID-19 for eligible farmers, we are directly responding to their requests for support and protecting Ontario’s agri-food sector so it can continue producing the food our province needs.”
Ontario farmers already enrolled in an eligible production insurance plan who suffer from crop losses due to labour disruptions during the 2020 growing season will have access to further insurance coverage through Agricorp. The added insurance coverage will include:
- Inability to attract sufficient on-farm labour due to COVID-19; and
- Illness or quarantine of on-farm labour and the producer due to COVID-19.
Farmers will be expected to notify Agricorp as soon as possible if they experience COVID-19 related labour disruptions that are having an impact on their crops.
“This announcement is an important first step towards giving growers assurances that their government will have their backs during the pandemic,” said Bill George, Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. “We thank Minister Bibeau for making this enhanced coverage possible, and we thank Minister Hardeman and the Ford government for its leadership, and for being the first province in Canada to take this step.”
Business Risk Management programs, including AgriInsurance, protect producers against significant risks that threaten the viability of their farm and are beyond their capacity to manage, such as weather, disease and pests. It is a business risk management program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments to support Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors.
“Ontario is home to 49,600 farms, growing 200 different commodities. Ontario’s agriculture
industry supports 69,000 jobs and contributes $7.6 billion to the GDP,” said MPP Jim McDonell.
- Agricorp administers production insurance programming in Ontario on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
- The province is significantly expanding the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program and committing up to $15 million to enhance health and safety measures on farms and in food processing facilities.
- The Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program provides cost-share funding for farmers to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and implement workplace modifications and other measures.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has provided funding to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) to deliver resources and consulting services to help farmers and other agri-food businesses provide safe workplaces. For more information, visit the WSPS website.
- The Federal government has launched a number of initiatives to help attract labour to primary agriculture:
o Youth Employment and Skills Strategy
o Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers
o Exemptions to Travel Restrictions for Temporary Foreign Workers