Prime Minister JustinTrudeau announced initial emergency relief measures for the agriculture sector totaling $252 million.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) says it appreciates help for farmers affected by the disruption created by COVID 19.
"We're pleased to see action being taken," said NFU President Katie Ward. "Clearly, it's cautious optimism because there's a huge amount of need and there's definitely room for more assistance."
The group notes the funding recognizes the impact of large packing plant closures on beef, hog and other livestock farmers.
The NFU supports worker health and safety and is also pleased to see aid that will help protect food processing workers and adapt processes to ensure workplace safety while renewing processing capacity focused on the domestic market. However, NFU says emergency funding criteria must exclude Cargill and JBS, which NFU says have recklessly endangered workers’ lives and members of the larger community by a failure to implement proper safety measures at the High River and Brooks operations.
The NFU is pleased that emergency funds for beef, hog and other livestock farmers will be administered through the AgriRecovery Business Risk Management program without requiring enrollment in AgriStability. The NFU says it has emphasized to the Minister that changes to AgriStability in 2012 made the program unworkable for most family farmers, especially mixed farmers, and has urged that it not be the primary delivery vehicle for COVID 19 emergency payments.
NFU notes that the total amount announced this week to support livestock producers, $125 million, will not be adequate to compensate farmers for the losses experienced. The NFU strongly urges that a floor price be enforced to ensure farmers receive at least the cost of production when selling livestock to federally inspected packers, feedlots and backgrounders. The group says this floor price is needed to prevent meat packing companies from reaping windfall profits from this crisis at the expense of farmers and consumers.
The NFU urges the federal government to help provinces develop appropriate meat inspection regulations that will position small and medium-sized abattoirs for long-term success.
Both the $200 million in increased credit for the Canadian Dairy Commission to increase its storage capacity and the $50 million for a surplus food purchase program are also welcomed by NFU.