Something that makes me proud to serve as MPP Dufferin-Caledon is the incredible agriculture sector we have in our community and across the province. It is the hard work, dedication and innovation of our farmers, agri-businesses and agri-food workers who have helped keep food on grocery store shelves and family dinner tables at this critical time.
Last year, the Dufferin Federation of Agriculture (DFA), working with the County of Dufferin, stepped up to the plate to help local farmers affected by COVID-19 disruptions. Together, they announced a feasibility study focused on how to get more processing capacity for our livestock producers.
I am very happy to see this study is now moving ahead. The study will help our farmers better market their products and strengthen our food supply and is an excellent example of the initiative and collaboration that makes Ontario’s agriculture sector so strong and renowned.
I know COVID-19 has caused issues and disruptions in our meat processors and that has impacted farmers in our community. However, our government has been swift to respond, providing necessary support and investment for the sector through several key initiatives while continuing to work with the sector to ensure long-term competitiveness.
Since February 2019, we have committed up to $2 million for projects to help improve food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity measures at provincially licensed abattoirs. We also extended the intake window under this program by two months to further support the sector.
Last December, Ontario and Canada launched the Meat Processors Capacity Improvement Initiative – an additional $4 million program to help processing plants increase their productivity and capacity through improvements to product handling and processing equipment. We are working quickly on these investments, having already approved projects under this program and reviewing the rest of the applications as fast as possible.
Immediate action was taken to support farmers who were recently affected by COVID-19 meat processing disruptions. The $5 million Canada-Ontario COVID-19 Agri-Recovery Beef Emergency Feed Maintenance Initiative allowed beef farmers to apply for emergency funding to help cover increased costs of feeding and setting aside market-ready cattle due to COVID-19 related processing delays. $5 million in emergency assistance was also made available for hog farmers through a similar program.
Our government recognizes the challenges COVID-19 has caused in the agriculture and processing industries. That is why we’re providing ongoing help to farmers and processors to keep them strong and supported at this time, ensuring they can keep feeding our province and country.
I want to thank the DFA and County of Dufferin for the great work they are doing helping our local farmers and the sector at large. This study will help provide real support for producers now and in the future, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.
If you want more information on the local agriculture and food sector, I encourage you to read Food for Thought – Dufferin Business Retention and Expansion Report, available at wwww.dufferincounty.ca