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Federal funding a good start but not enough for farmers: Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Wellington Federation of Agriculture president Janet Harrop said the funding is about one tenth of what is needed in Canada's agri-food industry
File photo

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Federal government’s announced financial support for the agri-food industry may be falling short of expectations for some farmers. 

The Government of Canada announced $252 million in financial support measures of Canadian beef and pork producers and the food processing sector. 

In a press release, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) president Keith Currie said they are pleased to see some efforts by the federal government but it doesn’t measure up to needs. 

“Without additional financial assistance across the industry, our domestic food supply and the entire food value chain is in jeopardy,” Currie said in a press release. “This is critical to our food security and the health and well-being of all Canadians.”

The funding announcement includes $77 million for the food processing sector. Wellington Federation of Agriculture (WFA) president Janet Harrop said this funding has been necessary even prior to the pandemic. 

“The processing piece of food production has been complicated and has needed some financial support for some time to be able to be retooled,” Harrop said in a phone interview. “The lack of processing and economic loss in the pork industry in particular is catastrophic so that funding to be able to allow those producers to keep their doors open is pretty important as margins become smaller and smaller.”

The press release said the Canadian Federation of Agriculture identified $2.6 billion in needed support for the agri-food industry, making the announced support about a tenth of what is required. Harrop described the funding as a good start and shows they recognize there is an issue. 

“I think the government has a difficult job deciding where to spend the dollars,” Harrop said. “People have to be able to purchase food, so they have really fundamentally put priority in those areas.”

Harrop explained that Canadian consumers have come to expect food to be affordable and a downstream effect of this is consolidating the processing. This has caused significant losses when there are any problems to large processors. 

“It all trickles back from the consumer that they have food and this is the first time where they come to the store where some of the shelves have been empty,” Harrop said. “It’s a recognition on the consumer end that there is a whole background infrastructure in the food processing system to be able to get that food on the shelf all the time.”

Harrop said the federal government is constantly evaluating and can add more funds if necessary. She encourages primary producers to have conversations with their MPs and MPPs so they can hear the stories of what is happening on their farms and plants. 

Harrop acknowledges farmers are hard-pressed to find time for these conversations. 

“We’re trying to get crop in the ground, it’s a very busy time on the farm right now,” Harrop said. “Not a time where we have a lot of opportunity to have these conversations but it is really important.”