Ontario’s vast agri-food sector supports more than 837,000 jobs in the province and contributes more than $47.5 billion each year to the economy. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, farmers across Ontario are faced with ongoing challenges to meet the current health and safety guidelines. It’s therefore of utmost importance that agricultural businesses receive the support they require so that they can safely continue providing a supply of sustainable, locally grown food that millions of Canadians value all year round.
Ontario and the federal government have granted an additional $11.6 million to help support efforts by Ontario producers to stop the spread of COVID-19 on their farms.
The federal funding that will be delivered by Ontario comes as part of the government’s initial announcement this summer to grant up to $15 million in funding support to enhance workplace safety in the agriculture sector as part of the Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program.
The Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program
The Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program seeks to support businesses, including farms, by improving health and safety methods to improve conditions for workers, and ensure the ongoing distribution of fresh, clean food to Canadians during the pandemic.
“Protecting the health and well-being of all farm workers who are helping ensure the food security for Canadians has been a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic. We will continue to provide Ontario farmers with the support they need to ensure the right measures are in place to safeguard their employees and limit the spread of the virus.”
– Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Through this federal funding program, farmers and other operational agricultural businesses can receive cost-share funding for projects to improve safety of operations such as enhanced cleaning and disinfection technology, purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE), medical testing equipment, and more.
Funding Snapshot: Eligibility, Projects, and Timeline
The Enhanced Agri-Food Workplace Protection Program provides funding to improve health and safety measures in the agriculture and agri-food sector to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“This investment will support Ontario producers in their efforts to ensure health and safety on their farms. Through changes to the physical workplace, housing areas and individual PPE accommodation, this expanded program delivers added protection and peace of mind.”
– Neil Ellis, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Eligible Cost-Share Funding Amounts
- With additional investments to the program, the total amount that farmers can claim for expenses such as workplace modifications, PPE, transportation, and temporary housing has doubled to $15,000
- The program also caters to small capital projects of up to $100,000 for housing modifications and workplace equipment modifications to allow greater physical distancing for workers
- An established farm business that is a legal entity and produces agricultural commodities in Ontario under a valid Farm Business Registration Number (FBRN), or an allowable exemption; and
- The farm business must involve intensive use of labour where workers may operate within close proximity of one another, or where the operator is responsible for providing workers with on- or off-site accommodations; or
- A business that is a legal entity located in Ontario that provides off-farm primary packing services (e.g., cooling, washing, sorting, packaging, storing) for primary agricultural commodities (e.g., fruits and vegetables); and
- The business makes intensive use of labour where workers may operate within close proximity of one another, or where the operator is responsible for providing workers with on- or off-site accommodations; or
- A business that is a legal entity located in Ontario that provides corn detasseling services and makes intensive use of labour where workers may operate within close proximity of one another
Eligible Activity Expenses
Activities must be necessary to address the immediate health and safety issues directly related to COVID-19 response:
- Modifications throughout an agricultural operation, worker housing, or worker transportation systems to ensure appropriate safety with regards to physical distancing needs (e.g., physical barriers)
- Providing workers with personal protective equipment and other approved safety supplies for use throughout an agricultural operation, worker housing, or worker transportation systems
- Cleaning and disinfection throughout an agricultural operation, worker housing, or worker transportation systems
- Providing arrangements to support worker accommodations and work-site mobility that are necessary to address an immediate health and safety issue
Ineligible expenses include, but are not limited to: Expansion or any other non-COVID-19-related objectives, expenses related to retail or other on-site sales activities, expenses for activities/practices that are not in accordance with guidelines, meal expenses, expenses of vehicles, transportation equipment, mobile material handling equipment (powered or unpowered), and construction and agriculture machinery (e.g., farm equipment), employee wages, permits and approvals, or taxes.
Government Funding for the Agriculture Sector
The Government of Canada has also invested $35 million to improve ongoing health and safety on farms through the similar Emergency On-Farm Support Fund. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) will distribute funding from both programs to agri-food businesses in need.
Please contact the Mentor Works team if you have an agricultural COVID-19-related project in mind that matches the criteria set out in this blog. To stay updated with all government funding news and changes, subscribed to the free Weekly Funding Newsletter.