May 15, OTTAWA – In the face of COVID-19, the Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC) will be presenting to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to address the challenges facing the horticultural sector. CHC will use the opportunity to discuss challenges related to access to labour, business risk management (BRM) programs, and the associated risks to Canadian food supply.
The presentation will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT, and can be viewed here: https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/AGRI/StudyActivity?studyActivityId=10830022
The horticultural industry is very diverse, as are the challenges the sector is up against in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And like most countries, Canada faces serious challenges to its national food security. CHC will be providing recommendations to the federal government to support Canadian growers to make sure our food security is protected.
“We are grateful to the federal government for its actions to support our sector, including its decision to exempt international farm workers from travel restrictions,” says Brian Gilroy, President of CHC. “However, a number of obstacles have made the flow of critical workers untenable. Many farms will receive merely a portion of the workers they generally rely on each growing season. Without the guarantee of a reliable workforce and a proper safety net behind them, many growers are making decisions as to whether it’s practical – let alone possible – to plant crops or tend to fruit trees.”
Growers are not immune to risk and uncertainty. Year after year, they take on the risks associated with a climate, pest infestations, and market volatility to make sure Canadians have an abundance of healthy fruits and vegetables. But in these extraordinary times – more than ever – they need concrete assurances that the government will have their back. Growing fruits and vegetables has significant input and overhead costs. Many growers just can’t take on those costs without a guarantee that the risk will not push them into bankruptcy. This is why CHC is asking government to take measures to protect farms, including strengthening existing farm programs like AgriStability so the programs can help manage and mitigate this unprecedented risk.
“While we are grappling with the other challenges associated with this pandemic, we have unfortunately seen how devastating an outbreak of COVID-19 can be on an operation,” says Jan VanderHout, Vice President of CHC, and a greenhouse vegetable grower from Hamilton, Ontario. “Simply put, we need the government’s support for our growers to continue to take on the many additional risks we are up against this year. We want to avoid situations where Canadian growers are forced to conclude that the risks to continuing operations are just too great. Canadians will be relying on our domestic growers more than ever – and more than ever our growers need meaningful safety nets behind them.”
As CHC and the broader horticultural sector examine ways to respond to the pandemic, they are urging the government to make food security a top priority. Canadian Fruit and vegetable growers are part of Canada’s ongoing food supply solution – they need help to continue feeding Canadians.