Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker is welcoming a recent announcement by Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, that the government is taking additional steps to better protect workers in the agri-food sector during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The province is significantly expanding the Agri-food Workplace Protection Program and committing up to $15 million to enhance health and safety measures on farms and in food processing facilities.
“Agri-food businesses and their hardworking employees in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound play a critical role in keeping our food supply chain strong, providing us with fresh, high-quality and nutritious food all year round,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Today’s investment will allow farmers to adapt to this new environment and implement additional health and safety measures during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program provides cost-share funding for farmers to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and implement workplace modifications and other measures. By significantly expanding the program, farmers can take additional steps to improve health and safety for their workers and ensure the continued supply of locally grown food during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In speaking with farmers and agri-food organizations, I appreciate how important it is to keep our workers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. I understand the need for support to be there when farmers need it most and that’s why the province has expanded and enhanced this program,” said Walker. “Our government is supporting the agri-food sector by more than tripling the current investment recently announced by the governments of Canada and Ontario of $4.5 million for farmers and provincially-licensed meat processors to enhance worker safety under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program.”
Some of the measures already approved through this program include purchases of PPE, temporary housing for ill workers, building physical barriers for worker separation, enhanced hand washing facilities and a tent rental to expand lunch room space.
The Ontario government is also supporting producers and other operations that experience unexpected costs for short-term accommodation and transportation as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. Support is also available for producers and other operations that experience unexpected costs for short-term accommodation and transportation as a result of the impacts of COVID-19.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) will deliver cost-share funding for the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program and has also partnered with the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) to provide agri-food businesses, organizations and associations with educational resources, tools and consulting services to help them implement COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
This announcement is part of Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. This $17 billion immediate response to the global pandemic provides urgent and direct support to help businesses, workers, seniors, families, students, indigenous peoples and communities, and vulnerable populations during COVID-19.
The action plan includes $3.3 billion of additional resources for health care, $3.7 billion to support people and jobs, and it makes available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, protecting jobs and household budgets.