Country 93

Country 93


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Local Ag Federation Says Emergency Legislation Is Good News

Grey County | by Claire McCormack  

Grey Ag Federation President says farmers now able to use foreign workers and farm credit.

A legislative bill for $82 billion in COVID-19 emergency funding passed today in the House of Commons includes $5 billion in available farm credit.

Add to that, the allowance of temporary foreign workers into Canada, and the Grey Ag Federation President says it's "good news" for local farmers.

Hugh Simpson says, "In most cases, I think the farm sector will look at this and say, given the circumstances, we get it, and the government acted responsibly and quickly."

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced there would be access to $5 billion in farm credit to help keep the agriculture sector afloat.

Meanwhile, on the weekend, the federal government announced it would allow temporary foreign workers into Canada while the border remains closed to many others. Farms in Grey and Bruce use foreign workers from Hi-Berry Farms in Saugeen Shores to the orchards in the Meaford area.  

Those workers will have to follow a strict, 14 day isolation requirement.

Simpson says if farmers have their paperwork in already, and unless you're a farmer who needed workers this week, the 14 day isolation period for workers still puts most farms in a good time-frame for the start of planting season.

He says the only remaining questions about the funding and about foreign workers are the detailed farm by farm ones, "There's good access to information or counsel, either by getting online or by making a phone call," says Simpson.  

According to Statistics Canada, in 2015 there were just under 22,000 temporary foreign workers in Ontario, about half of Canada's temporary foreign workers are from Mexico.

In terms of other concerns among local farmers over COVID-19, Simpson says, "Generally farmers are those who keep putting one foot in front of the other."

"We as a farm sector generally are used to some of these kinds of uncertainties, not necessarily biological, viral uncertainties on a human level, but we know about biosecurity and we know about disease."

He adds,"We're all looking for that solid ground and recognizing that there is little that anyone can do to provide solid ground in these remarkable circumstances, these unforeseen, unpredictable circumstances."

He notes that in a time of a pandemic, there may be farmers who feel they're less likely to be infected with COVID-19 because of the isolated, rural nature of their work, but he warns, "As things ramp up and help comes onto the farm and if you're running a gate sales business or a community supportive agriculture model, you are going to come in contact with the population."

Simpson adds, "One who feels most physically isolated by this might be the one who takes it for granted and has the problem...some people will take better precautions because they feel more at risk."

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