Statement from Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham regarding COVID-19:
Thank you for doing your best in the fight against COVID-19!
As a Member of the Cabinet of British Columbia I can say with great sincerity that your provincial government is working incredibly hard to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We are in this together and we will get through it together.
As the Minister of Agriculture, I want to comment on two of the many urgent issues that my Ministry is prioritizing. Yesterday I wrote about the sector’s concerns at a high-level; today I want to be more specific on two of the topics most concerning British Columbians working in the farm, fish and food sector.
First, Farmers’ Markets. Under additional conditions regarding COVID-19, Farmers Markets can continue to operate in B.C. at this time.
The Ministry of Agriculture is working directly with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets to assist with this season and I’m pleased to share that the Ministry of Agriculture will be providing financial support for them to develop an operating model better suited to times of a pandemic.
Farmers in B.C. are a fundamental part of our food system. Farmers’ markets come in many shapes and sizes.
Regrettably, at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic means they will not be about socializing and community.
They will be focused on serving a very important purpose: helping people all over this province access fresh, locally grown or raised, meat and other proteins, vegetables, fruit –and many more foods and beverages. I want to thank everyone who works in farm, fish and food sector – you are critical, and we appreciate you!
Second, most farmers rely on seasonal labour. We rely on more than 10,000 hard-working seasonal farm workers to support B.C. food production each year.
They travel from their homes to work on farms and food processing locations all over the province.
They come from different regions, provinces and countries.
It is the federal government that determines who can enter Canada and under what conditions. My executive team and myself are working with the federal government and other provinces on a daily basis regarding foreign labour.
We expect them to have more to say on this in the coming days. We are also actively looking at how we can support new employment opportunities for British Columbians.
I’m so proud of the agricultural sector that is working to adapt and keep on going.
The harvest season comes early in many parts of B.C., so the work demands are already enormous.
For farmers and others in the sector who need help, please see these messages I put out previously:
A summary of the Agri-related Federal economic measures that we have so far coming from the announcement that was made by the Government: https://www.facebook.com/lana.popham/posts/10158371874553804
Ministry outreach to agriculture, food and fish stakeholders around the Province. https://www.facebook.com/lana.popham/posts/10158366953268804
Thank you for helping us all get through this crisis,
Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, B.C.
The Ministry understands the value and importance that seasonal workers have in helping B.C. producers raise, grow and deliver their products to market.
Ministry staff are in on-going contact with our federal colleagues and B.C. farmers to look at options at how we can secure a stable and healthy labour supply for the growing season.
The Ministry has begun discussions with our federal partners to review how existing and additional programs that help producers who experience income losses may be used or developed to help producers who experience revenue losses this year.
The Ministry’s Emergency Response Plan for Feed Grain Disruptions was recently activated in response to transportation systems interruptions and we will continue to do our utmost so B.C. farmers, fish and food producers have access to the goods they need to complete their crucial work.
Farmers, seafood and food processors with questions about impacts to their businesses should reach out to their ministry contacts or AgriserviceBC at 1-888-221-7141 and AgriServiceBC@gov.bc.ca
British Columbians looking for reliable and up-to-date information on the virus, what we all can do, and the response in general, can visit www.gov.bc.ca/covid19 or contact the dedicated 1-888-COVID-19 / 1-888-268-4319 phone line for more information.