Speech for minister Bibeau: Canadian Horticultural Council - Canadian Produce Marketing Association: Virtual Fall Harvest

November 2, 2020 11h20

Thank you Ron and Rebecca.

Hello to industry representatives and all the hard-working growers who are participating today.

I first want to commend you on hosting the first-ever virtual Fall Harvest.

I know we would all much prefer to be able to meet in-person for this conference, but we adapt, right?

Of course, I would prefer to visit you in the field, and nothing can replace an in-person visit to one of our many impressive horticultural farms across the country.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Jardins A. Guérin et Fils and Fermes Leclair et Frères in Sherrington, in Montérégie.

In the context of the pandemic, we decided to hold our roundtable at a proper distance from one another right in one of their fields!

I always learn a lot from these meetings with you.

Over the past eight months, you have continued to drive our local economies and food supply in the face of significant challenges:

  • labour challenges
  • market challenges
  • financial challenges.

Through it all, you have stood strong and resilient.

You have continued to supply fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables to Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

I know Canadians are thankful for the great work that you continue to do. And so am I.

You always have significant challenges to overcome, and many of them are unpredictable. This year, you have shown more than ever your capacity for resilience and adaptability, despite labour issues, restaurant closures, and financial pressures.

At the beginning, we were wondering how the border closure would impact our food supply and access to the critical migrant workforce.

But, with a great Team Canada effort – from all levels of Government and industry – we kept the border open both for food and for workers.

And we continue to work hard alongside our producers to get through these challenges.

Our Government fully understands how reliant our farms and food plants are on migrant workers.

They are essential to food security.

And we are doing everything in our power to ensure you have the resources you need.

When the pandemic broke, we invested $50 million to facilitate the safe arrival of temporary foreign workers into Canada.

And we will increase the envelope and extend the deadline of the Quarantine Act.

You have perhaps heard that the Quarantine Act has been extended to the end of November. Likewise, I am announcing today that the assistance for the safe arrival of temporary foreign workers will also be extended.

We're talking about $1,500 per worker to help you cover the additional costs linked to the mandatory 14-day isolation.

For temporary foreign workers, we fast-tracked application processes and reduced the amount of paperwork.

Our measures helped to bring about 85% of workers to Canadian farms, compared to the same time last year.

We also moved to help farmers insure losses from labour shortage under AgriInsurance.

But we know we need to do more.

We also continue to roll out our Emergency on-farm worker safety program province-by-province, backed by a federal investment of $35 million.

This further support is helping growers with the costs to protect their workers through, for example, improved living quarters or sanitation stations.

This week, with Minister Lamontagne, I will also announce the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund.

That's Quebec's share of the $35-million fund announced several weeks ago – which aims to help producers to make workplaces and housing safer.

We also launched the $50-million Surplus Food Rescue Program to help farmers find markets for their surplus produce, while helping vulnerable Canadians get the food they need.

This program has been key for some crops such as potatoes, which were hard-hit by the closure of restaurants.

I want to thank Ron and CPMA for your work to deliver this program.

Together, you will provide Canadians in need with over a million kilos of fruits and vegetables.

As Ron said, this program is a lifeline for both food-insecure Canadians and our producers.

Beyond COVID, your industry faces a number of major risks to your businesses – including volatile prices, weather, and damage from pests.

Today, I'm pleased to announce a federal investment of $387,000 under the AgriRisk Initiatives to help the Canadian fruit and vegetable sector develop innovative new ways for producers to manage risk and make their businesses stronger.

Of this investment, $225,000 will help the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers develop a new financial tool for producers to manage the risk of disease and insects in their crops.

As well, we are investing over $123,000 to help the Canadian Horticultural Council conduct research towards a potential new tool to strengthen insurance coverage.

And we have invested more than $38,000 in a project for the Association des producteurs maraîchers du Québec. They have designed a digital tool that will help growers to better manage climate change risks.

The future looks promising for your industry. Demand is growing for local food that is fresh and nutritious.

Canadians are eating more local food than ever before.

During the pandemic, demand for local food products has risen by 13%. Nearly 75% of consumers say they are making an effort to buy Canadian.

It's important that you can keep the momentum going.

Your "Half Your Plate" campaign and the "I Love Fruits and Vegetables" movement are effective.

With our Food Policy for Canada, we, too, are developing a campaign to bolster Canadians' confidence and pride in our food.

If we are going to ask our farm businesses to lead us on the road to recovery, I know we need to improve our business risk management programs, starting with AgriStability.

This is a top priority for me.

That's why I am working closely with my provincial colleagues to improve the programs and provide a national solution where provinces pay their fair share and programs are fair for different sectors.

I look forward to meeting again with them later this month.

My vision for Canadian agriculture is one where we find a balance between the large-scale opportunities for exports, but also strengthening our local supply chains.

My goal is for our agriculture sector to stand on the three pillars of sustainable development.

First, of course, is what agriculture brings to the economy and how we can grow our exports to $75 billion by 2025.

Securing our trade agreement with the United States stabilized our largest customer in agriculture.

Second, environmental sustainability, where we take care of our land, find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce food waste.

I am thinking of the great work that CPMA is doing on greener packaging and waste reduction, as a perfect example.

The third pillar is the social aspect, which includes mental health, the vitality of our rural communities, and the inclusion of more women, youth and underrepresented groups.

It's very important to me that the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector be sustainable – from an economic, environmental and social perspective.

My message to you today is that our Government is here to support you, and I challenge you to use that support to help develop a strategic vision for the sector.

At the top of my priority list, which I have addressed today, I will keep working with you to:

  • strengthen the sustainability of your industry;
  • address labour challenges; and
  • find consensus on meaningful improvements to BRM.

Thank you again for all you do for Canada. I know we can continue our strong working relationship.

I wish everyone a successful virtual Fall Harvest! Thank you!