Due to the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus, farmers across the country are continuously trying to meet the evolving health and safety guidelines to protect themselves, their teams, and the quality of food they produce. Federal and provincial governments have recognized the urgent need to support agricultural producers through this process and have created funding programs that focus primarily on the farming sector.
“Protecting the health and well-being of all farmworkers who are helping ensure the food security for Canadians has been a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic. We will continue to provide Ontario farmers with the support they need to ensure the right measures are in place to safeguard their employees and limit the spread of the virus,” said Marie Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in a recent news release.
Two examples of these government funding programs are the federally-mandated Emergency On-Farm Support Fund, and the provincially-mandated Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program for Ontario farmers. These programs exist so that farmers can safely continue to supply sustainable, locally grown food that millions of Canadians depend on, while also protecting themselves and further preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Federal Emergency On-Farm Support Fund
In October, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $35 million to address COVID-19 outbreaks on farms and improve protections for domestic and temporary foreign workers on farms across the country.
The Emergency On-Farm Support Fund assists agricultural producers with the cost of activities that improve the health and safety of all farmworkers by limiting the spread of COVID-19.
- Up to 50% grant funding to a maximum of $100,000 per eligible project.
- Cost-share will be up to 60% if the farm is majority-owned by one or more under-represented groups, including women, youth (<30), indigenous, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities.
- Primary agricultural producers that produce agricultural products for resale and employ farmworkers (domestic and temporary foreign works). They include sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations/cooperatives/communal organizations, trusts, and band farms.
Eligible safety projects:
- On-farm retrofits or adjustments to existing agricultural operations to cover extraordinary costs associated with COVID-19 to ensure worker safety, such as increased sanitation and security solutions to current processes
- Costs for disposable and non-disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) that are over and above normal operations due to COVID-19, such as thermal scanners, washing stations, face shields, sanitizers and cleaning products, disposable gloves, respirators, etc.
- Costs related to worker training and safety, such as interpretation services and training on COVID-19 protocols.
- Eligible activities can be retroactive to March 15, 2020 and must be completed by February 26, 2021.
- For agricultural producers in BC, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, PEI or Quebec – the program will be available in the coming weeks.
- For agricultural producers in Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, NWT, Nunavut, Saskatchewan or Yukon – the program is available now.
Ontario’s Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program
Similar to the federal government funding program mentioned above, Ontario’s Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program focuses on Ontario farmers by providing non-repayable grant funding for PPE and small infrastructure support to help offset COVID-19 impacts.
- 60% grant funding to a maximum of $100,000 per business for infrastructure needs.
- 70% grant funding to a maximum of $15,000 per business for implementing health and safety measures related to COVID-19.
- An established farm business that is a legal entity and produces agricultural commodities in Ontario under a valid Farm Business Registration Number or an allowable exemption.
- A business that is a legal entity located in Ontario that provides off-farm packaging services for primary agricultural commodities.
- A business that is a legal entity located in Ontario that provides corn detasseling services.
All businesses must involve intensive use of labour where workers may operate within proximity of one another, or where the operator is responsible for providing workers with on- or off-site accommodations.
- Modifications such as physical barriers to enable safe social distancing. Purchase of PPE and other approved safety supplies for use throughout an agricultural operation.
- Cleaning and disinfection throughout an agricultural operation and on-farm housing for workers.
- Activities to support worker accommodations, work-site mobility and transportation.
- Support for temporary housing arrangements for workers in cases where existing facilities cannot adequately allow for physical distancing.
- Training workers on COVID-19 safety protocols (e.g. interpretation, materials, external support).
- The Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection program is currently accepting applications and funding is being distributed on a first-come, first serve basis until the allocated amount has been depleted.
How to apply for agriculture-sector government funding
Canadian farmers and agricultural producers may not be aware that there are a wide range of government funding programs such as the two described in this article to help offset the costs of equipment, safety measures, economic growth strategies, innovation, hiring, training, and more. These federal and provincial funding programs offer thousands or even millions of dollars of targeted funding to support and maintain business operations to support the agricultural sector.
To learn more about government programs for agri-food businesses and how to apply for current funding opportunities, visit the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada section of the Government of Canada’s website. You can also access targeted information from Mentor Works, an Ontario-based small company that connects businesses with government funding resources to foster innovation and productivity improvements.
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.