Ottawa isn’t in a rush to disclose details on various programs designed to support the agriculture sector as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal finance department’s latest bi-weekly report on emergency response measures indicates that $453 million in direct support to the farm sector will be available “shortly.” This includes $77.5 million for an emergency processing fund, $50 million for a surplus food purchase program and funding under business risk management programs.
Speaking to media this week, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau promised that details of the food purchase program will be available in the coming days, while funding to support livestock producers “depends on the provinces.” BC has not announced the allocation of funds to match federal funding, which aims to support producers who have been unable to send animals for processing.
Bibeau said a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers has been deferred until October. Plans for a “Buy Canadian” program under the Food Policy for Canadians announced last summer have been put on hold.
The finance department’s report details $523 million in direct support for the farm sector. This is a miniscule amount of the $152.8 billion in direct support programs Ottawa has announced to date to address COVID-19.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which represents the BC Agriculture Council at the national level, has asked for at least $2.6 billion.
All told, the federal government has earmarked $686.5 billion for direct and indirect measures to address the impacts of COVID-19.