Government Consultation on Post-Pandemic Recovery

May 22, 2020 | Clarence Nywening

Government Consultation on Post-Pandemic Recovery

Early this week, Minister Hardeman met with industry stakeholders via videoconference to discuss economic recovery for the agri-food sector. In particular, government is seeking feedback on transitional and post-pandemic measures to support the industry.

CFFO took this opportunity to remind government that business owners and workers have been under considerable stress, adapting operations to meet new safety requirements. We’re urging government to remember that education is a better way to achieve compliance than fines.

Recognizing that business norms are changing, even as emergency measures are lifted, the Ministry has asked what changes stakeholders would like to see in order to strengthen the sector. We had several suggestions.

First, we need to diversify processing in Ontario. For example, more abattoirs, especially smaller ones that are geographically spread out, should help to bolster Ontario’s food security. A stronger provincial processing sector as a whole – equipped to process what we produce – could support both local and export markets.

Secondly, we must address labour shortages. Agriculture has been struggling for a long time to find enough workers, and the problem has been aggravated by the pandemic. We need programs that open more opportunities for migrant and local labour.

It’s important, wherever possible, to help businesses keep employees who are already trained and familiar with their business. Farm businesses will also need continued support to retool in order to meet new opportunities in a post-pandemic marketplace.

Thirdly, we need government to make risk management programs available to all commodities, or at least to a much broader spectrum. Programs must be attractive enough to farmers to encourage strong participation, thus ensuring coverage during difficult times. Government must make sure these programs are fair across sectors and for different sizes of farms.

Finally, we need relief from the carbon tax. We have urged Minister Hardeman to press federal government to remove carbon pricing for farm businesses and for those supplying farm businesses, such as grain dryers.

CFFO focused our recommendations on key supports that the agri-food sector will need as the province moves gradually out of lockdown. The most important thing to remember is that the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a long time to come. CFFO will continue to remind our elected officials of agriculture’s essential role in Ontario.

Clarence Nywening is Interim General Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.