PONTIAC May 20, 2020
The federal government has announced that it will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to agricultural producers struck by the COVID 19 pandemic.
The funding is geared to help farmers with the added costs of keeping livestock on the farm longer, will help producers retrofit businesses to make work environments safer and will help get excess product to those who need it.
The total cost of the funding scheme is over $250 million.
Half of that money will go to the national AgriRecovery program. The goal is to help farmers who have been forced to keep cattle and hogs on their farms longer due to the closure of meat processing pants.
With farmers having to house and feed those animals instead of making money off them, it’s an additional burden at an already tough time.
“That puts the producer in a terrible circumstance,” Pontiac Liberal MP Will Amos said. “All the overhead costs continue to mount.”
In drastic circumstances, Amos said producers are forced to decide whether to cull part of their herd in order to bear the brunt of the costs.
“That’s serious and very detrimental,” Amos said.
Likewise, he pointed to the dairy sector and the troubles faced by producers.
Dozens of news stories from all over the continent detail farmers dumping milk because of the downturn in the hospitality sector – normally a major purchaser of dairy products.
With that entire sector completely evaporated, and with Canada’s supply management system keeping tight control over how much milk is produced, farmers are forced to send perfectly good milk into the manure pit.
Amos pointed to the recent legislation that increased the Canadian Dairy Commission’s line of credit to $200 million as one measure aimed at helping the dairy sector.
“The Canadian Dairy Commission can go and buy and store excess cheese and butter and avoid wasting it,” Amos said. “That’s really important.”
In that same vein, the new funding announcement provides $50 million for a surplus food purchase program that will help redistribute excess stocks from producers to food banks.
Amos said it’s going to be done region by region and sector by sector. He pointed to the Atlantic provinces and the fact that P.E.I. potato producers will ensure food banks in the Maritimes have plenty of spuds.
He said major food banks will coordinate with smaller ones to get food from producers to consumers, which has been ongoing since the pandemic started.
“It won’t be done on a basis of direct to your local food bank,” Amos said. “It’ll go through the major regional food banks and they will end up doing the allocations and working out the distribution system.”
This kind of resource deployment has already happened on a local basis.
Amos said the manager of Camp des Voyageurs Tim Horton in Quyon was faced with full fridges of food that won’t get eaten with no campers coming this year.
That food was distributed to local food banks and the manager is looking to redeploy the services of the camp’s cooks wherever they’re needed.
With these initiatives helping local businesses, Amos wanted to emphasize the role residents play in helping businesses through these tough times.
He pointed to the local producers that target businesses in Ottawa and how people’s buying habits have changed.
“You’re seeing a lot more initiatives around the local purchasing of vegetables,” he said.
Amos and several of his neighbours recently pooled some money and made a bulk purchase from Abattoir Viandes du Pontiac in Shawille.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s happening now,” Amos said. “Lots of people are focussing on local purchasing.”
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