The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is calling on the federal government to prioritize food production in Canada to fend off growing uncertainty among producers.
During a virtual press conference earlier today, CFA President Mary Robinson said now is the time to sound the alarm about the realities Canadian producers are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Agriculture, the foundation of our overall food supply, is at this very moment in time, at a tipping point. If we do not as a nation address the rising challenges immediately, Canadian consumers could see a decrease in the amount and variety of food at their local grocery stores, as well as higher prices in the months ahead.”
Robinson highlighted that farming families need immediate help and support to ensure the domestic food supply remains reliable and secure for all Canadians. She noted that producers face ongoing labour shortages and unpredictability, and that is beginning to impact farms and food processing.
“This year, many Canadian farmers do not have enough workers to consider planting a 2020 crop. In addition, farmers are seeing alarming uncertainty in their markets. Not knowing if we will be able to get to market the food we grow, is eroding the confidence our farmers need to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to plant a crop.”
She said difficult decisions are being made right now whether to seed crops this year or to leave fields unplanted, while other producers are considering plantings crops that require crops less labour and costly inputs.
“Another fear is that if planting does go ahead, will harvesting and processing be possible without sufficient labour. Or will crops rot in the field, as we are seeing now in other countries.”
The CFA also raised the issue of unexpected increases in purchasing costs for personal protective equipment.
Additionally, livestock producers are facing increased costs as a result of having to keep livestock longer because of lower production capacity at meat processing plants.
“Canadian farmers are feeling increasingly stressed. In fact, right now some farmers are so worried about the mounting challenges they are strongly considering halting their farming operations all together. This is a potential tragedy, one Canada can not afford.”
The CFA is asking government to create an emergency fund as a financial backstop which would allow farmers in need to access funds to help them overcome mounting costs.
“As we respond to people’s illnesses and having to flatten the curve, we also have to feed 36 million Canadians every day and we have to make sure that we’re in a position to keep doing that.”