Federal aid money 'a good start,' but Sask. agricultural producers association hopes more is coming

The $252-million federal aid package was announced Tuesday.

'There's a lot of hurt out there right now': Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president

Help for producers who raise cattle and hogs is an immediate need, says Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

The announcement of $252 million in federal aid for the agriculture and food industry across the country has left one Saskatchewan farm group hopeful that more is on the way. 

"I think it's a good start," said Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Todd Lewis. 

"The prime minister, in his remarks, referenced that it's a start. More help will be needed." 

The federal aid package, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday, is split into three main sections.

One is a $55-million federal program to buy food that's at risk of going to waste, and to redistribute it to food banks and other food security organizations.

Another $77 million is going toward food processors, including meat packers, to help retrofit their factories and increase their capacity, including adapting to safety measures and social distancing protocols.

Another $125 million is going to the AgriRecovery fund, a federal-provincial-territorial program aimed at helping farmers during disasters. The prime minister said that's meant to help livestock producers who are being forced to keep animals for longer than planned due in part to backlogs in processing. 

Prior to the announcement, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture had asked for $2.6 billion in emergency funding. 

Lewis says the fact the prime minister left the door open for more to come gives him hope.

Todd Lewis is a the president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan. (CBC)

While he says COVID-19 restrictions have yet to hit the grain industry especially hard in Saskatchewan, help for people who raise cattle and hogs is an immediate need.

"The processing plant closures have really affected their market and the prices they're receiving for their animals," he said. 

"I think there's a lot of hurt out there right now. And I think we really need to continue to impress upon the federal government the urgency of the situation."

He said there needs to be a recognition that agriculture is important to Canada.

"We're a huge economic driver in the province, and really in all of Canada," he said.

"And we need to see a backstop that's going to allow the agriculture industry to come through this without too much hurt."

With files from Catharine Tunney and Janyce McGregor

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