The Ontario government is providing $10 million for farmers and agri-food operators for personal protective equipment, as well as enhanced cleaning and redesigned workstations.
Under the new Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program, farms and agri-food businesses that hire three or more employees will be eligible for funding.
Additional businesses will also be able access the new money, including corn detasselers, transporters, hatcheries and primary processors, such as those in cutting, cleaning, packaging, storage and refrigeration.
“Farming and agri-food businesses have been on the front lines of the pandemic since Day One, working hard to keep food on the table for our families,” said Monte McNaughton, labour minister and Lambton––Kent––Middlesex MPP, in an April 14 release.
The funding will also help farmers facing unexpected costs for short-term or temporary housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-farm employees.
“It is critical that we take every step possible to protect worker health and safety and ensure the province’s food producers can continue operating,” said Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “The men and women on our farms and in the agri-food sector are essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic and deserve our support and appreciation.”
Further information and application forms will be available when the program opens on April 22. It will cover costs retroactive to March 13 of this year. Applications will be accepted while funding is available or until Nov. 30.
“The (Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association) appreciates the continued funding to help offset some of the additional costs associated with ensuring the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” chair Bill George said.
“The health of our workforce is number one priority, as without these critical employees fruit and vegetable farmers would not be able to continue producing food for the people of Ontario.”
Peggy Brekveld, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president, also welcomed the funding and encouraged farm businesses to take advantage of the program.
“Extending funding and access to this program will help address the concerns we’ve heard from farmers regarding cost and availability of personal protective equipment,” she said.
Last year’s Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program committed $26.6 million to help farmers and other agri-food places with expenses related to protecting workers against COVID-19.