BC Fruit Growers underwhelmed by agricultural aid package

Growers underwhelmed

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association is calling the federal government’s pandemic support package for agriculture “profoundly underwhelming.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $252-million Tuesday for the agricultural industry, falling far short of the $2.6 billion request for help last month from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

Much of the funding is focused on the meatpacking and livestock industry.

“The announcement today addresses the immediate needs for the beef and livestock producers and processors, but has not addressed the immediate needs of the fruit, vegetable and grain sectors,” said Pinder Dhaliwal, president of the BCFGA.

“We can’t underestimate the urgency of the need for immediate financial assistance to prevent the devastation of our industry sector. Our members are at a point where decisions are being made about whether they can even afford to produce their crops this year.”  

The BC Fruit Growers say they appreciate the previous help from the provincial and federal government that provides funding for quarantine measures for temporary foreign workers, “but many challenges remain both in terms of increased costs and securing adequate amounts of labour.”

“The Canadian government needs to recognize that the reliable supply of food from other countries is at risk, and now more than ever there is a need to support a secure, safe food supply produced in Canada,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the BCFGA. 

“We will continue to work with Agriculture Minister Bibeau, but our expectation is that she and her government will take a stronger stand to protect our agriculture production capacity in this country.”

Prime Minister Trudeau said the money announced Tuesday is a starting point, suggesting more could be in the works. 

"We know that farmers still have concerns about what this pandemic means for their industry long-term," Trudeau said.

The government is working with everyone involved to find lasting solutions, he said.

"This is an initial investment and if we need to add more, we will.”

with files from the Canadian Press

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