P.E.I. farmers get almost $1M from Ottawa for COVID-19 measures

The federal government will give Prince Edward Island almost $1 million to help Prince Edward Island farmers better protect the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it announced in a written release Thursday.

Investment figure based on estimated 120 farmers applying for new program

Temporary foreign workers help plant, grow and harvest produce on P.E.I. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The federal government will give P.E.I. almost $1 million to help Island farmers better protect the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it announced in a written release Thursday.

The $945,000 will come from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food's $35 million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund, which was launched in July to help Canadian farms affected by COVID-19. 

"The funding we are announcing today is both timely and deserved," said P.E.I. Minister of Agriculture Bloyce Thompson.

"Whether implementing measures to protect customers, or to allow physical distancing for employees, our farmers have been spending their own money to enhance safety to others." 

The funding will be delivered to Island farmers by the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture. 

Eligible projects will include improvements to living quarters and work stations, temporary or emergency housing on- or off-farm, personal protective equipment, sanitary stations, work stations and other health and safety measures that protect the health of Canadian and temporary foreign workers from COVID-19.

'Much-needed assistance'

The program is retroactive, said Ron Maynard, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

"The Emergency On-Farm Support Fund is an investment that will provide farm employers with some much-needed assistance," said Maynard. 

Minister of Agriculture Bloyce Thompson says P.E.I. farmers have been digging into their own pockets to cover the cost of COVID-19 changes, and this money will help them recoup those costs. (Al MacCormick/CBC )

Maynard also said the money would help in securing a workforce.

"We believe this fund will assist in ensuring we continue to have access to labour, including offshore workers, and ensuring future arrangements are less uncertain," he said.

Projects will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis, and extra consideration will be given to farms that are deemed more at risk of COVID-19, said Thompson. 

He said farms that have on-site processing or operations where employees can't always adhere to physical distancing recommendations would make them higher-risk settings.

Appropriate accommodations for temporary foreign workers are also an area of focus, Thompson said. 

Island farms can apply through the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture website from Oct. 29 to Jan. 15, 2021. The amount of funding is based on an estimated 120 farmers applying.

The program and the farmer will share the cost equally, up to $30,000 per farm operation. Women, youth, visible minorities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities will receive an extra 10 per cent, amounting to a 60-40 split as the federal government "promotes and empowers underrepresented groups in the agricultural sector," the release said. 

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