COVID-19 - Information for the agriculture and agri-food industry
The Government of Canada is taking action to support producers, processors and agri-food businesses facing hardship as a result of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
For all questions regarding animal health and food inspections, please consult the Canada Food Inspection Agency’s COVID-19 website.
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada hosts COVID-19 information sharing calls with stakeholders every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12 pm EST. If you would like to participate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal resources for producers and businesses
Resources for producers and businesses
For details on the programming available, including how to apply, please visit the Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan website. There is a section specifically dedicated to resources for businesses.
It includes information about tax deferrals and some notable emergency resources including:
Agriculture and agri-food sector resources
The Farm Credit Canada (FCC) lending capacity was increased by an additional $5 billion. This new injection of credit allows FCC to help farmers, agribusinesses and food processors who face cash flow issues from deferral to the principal or interest portions of their loans to accessing additional credit.
The Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund, a $100-million venture capital fund was launched to provide companies with the stability and flexibility they need to rebuild their business models during challenging times. Additionally, a $50 million investment was made in three new venture capital funds (InvestEco Sustainable Food, District Ventures, Ag Capital Canada) and an innovation and growth accelerator (Bioenterprise) to support various parts of Canada’s agriculture and food industry.
Producers with an Advance Payments Program loan due by April 30 have been granted an extension to their repayment deadline.
Producers continue to have access to a comprehensive suite of Business Risk Management programs to help them manage significant financial impacts and risks beyond their control.
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has developed an AgriStability Estimator to provide an online aid to help producers understand how the AgriStability program works, how program benefits are calculated and how different scenarios can impact their operations.
In addition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced that the Government of Canada is taking further action to support farmers and businesses during this unprecedented time by:
- Creating a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment (PPE), adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations, and respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19 so they can better supply Canadians with food during this period.
- Launching a national AgriRecovery initiative of up to $125 million in funding to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19.
- Increasing the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit by $200 million to support costs associated with the temporary storage of cheese and butter to avoid food waste.
- Launching the Surplus Food Purchase Program with an initial $50 million fund designed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories, which could include products such as potatoes and poultry, to local food organizations who are serving vulnerable Canadians.
Guidance for food business activities and processes
The food industry should continue to follow guidance and protocols set out by local public health officials. Instructions may vary depending on the spread of COVID-19 in certain areas and provinces, and the products they produce. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has released additional guidance for meat processors, however the same guidance can be applied more broadly to other third party establishments.
For additional information on practices, please consult the CFIA’s dedicated industry COVID-19 website.
For additional information on how businesses can support their employees and continue to operate during a pandemic, please consult the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (PDF):
Additional federal resources
- Access to credit
- Business Credit Availability Program
- Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee program
- Support for rural businesses and communities
- Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
- Regional Relief and Recovery Fund
- Large Employee Emergency Financing Facility
- Industrial Research Assistance Program
- Tax relief
- Support for employers and employees
- Students and youth
- Access to credit
Jobs and temporary foreign workers
Conditions and obligations for temporary foreign workers
The Government has lifted entry restrictions for temporary foreign workers coming into Canada. Details on these travel exemptions, as well as the associated protocols can be found on Employment and Social Development Canada’s page.
The maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been increased from 1 to 2 years. This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing.
As in years past, employers and their associations are responsible for organizing travel for temporary foreign workers. Employment and Social Development Canada has provided guidance on the obligations of employers of temporary foreign workers, including the payment of wages during the 14-day self isolation period, which can be found at:
- Letter from Ministers to employers – Temporary foreign workers – COVID-19
- Guidance for employers of temporary foreign workers regarding COVID-19
- Frequently asked questions: Changes to the temporary foreign worker program regarding COVID-19
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – Employment and Social Development Canada
Employers are also expected to follow any unique guidelines established by the province in which they operate.
Assistance for employers of temporary foreign workers
The Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program (MISTFWP) is a one-time $50-million program to help with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food supply in Canada by assisting the farming, fish harvesting, and food production and processing sectors. The MISTFWP will provide a maximum non-repayable contribution amount of $1,500 for each temporary foreign worker.
The program will assist Canadian employers with some of the incremental costs associated with the mandatory 14-day isolation period imposed under the Quarantine Act on temporary foreign workers upon entering Canada.
Job portal: Step up to the plate — Help feed Canadians
There is a strong need for workers on Canadian farms and in food processing businesses across the country right. Canadians, especially those whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19, are encouraged to apply for jobs in the food sector at Step up to the plate — Help feed Canadians.
The entire food supply chain has been identified as critical infrastructure and the Government has lifted entry restrictions for temporary foreign workers coming into Canada during COVID-19.
Youth Employment and Skills Program
The Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP) provides a wage subsidy to employers who hire youth for agricultural jobs. The program offers support for 50% of wages to a maximum of $14,000. Additionally, the program offers 100% of the costs of addressing employment barriers, including for relocation, to a maximum of $5,000.
More information can be found on the Youth Employment and Skills Program page.
Public health guidance for the sector
Trade and transportation
Transportation across provincial and territorial boundaries
Truck drivers supporting the agricultural and agri-food sector are considered essential workers as outlined in the Guidance on essential services and functions in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make sure that these drivers can cross borders, the Government of Canada is providing employers a template letter to confirm the status of their drivers as essential workers. Employers can fill out the Employment confirmation – essential transportation worker form, print it and give it to their drivers to carry while transporting these goods.
Canada-US border – Open for cargo
The United States and Canada recognize it is critical we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be restricted. Americans and Canadians who also cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons, will not be impacted.
Truck drivers, plane crews and others who are transporting goods are essential to our supply chains. As long as they are not showing symptoms, these workers are exempted from travel bans.
For all issues at the border, including information on border crossings, please contact the Canada Border Services Agency 24/7 border information service line at 1-800-461-9999.
International agricultural trade
The Government of Canada is closely monitoring the economic and agricultural trade impacts of COVID-19, as countries continue to implement various measures to contain the spread of the disease. At this time, COVID-19 is disrupting shipping logistics around the world and presenting some challenges involving the movement of food. Many of Canada’s trade partners have implemented travel restrictions and additional safety measures at ports, which is causing delays throughout the international supply chain.
Despite these challenges, most of Canada’s trade partners consider the food supply chain as critical during this time, and Canada remains in a strong position to supply our international customers with safe, high-quality agricultural products.
For more information on how the government is supporting Canadian exporters and the free flow of goods and services across our international borders, please visit the Trade Commissioner Services website.
Essential services and functions
Services and functions that are essential to the continuity of operations and incident response in the context of COVID-19, are listed at Guidance on essential services and functions in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. This list, developed by the Department of Public Safety, covers a variety of critical infrastructure in Canada, but most importantly identifies food as essential, and provides a non-exhaustive list of essential functions for the food supply chain.
Support for people experiencing food insecurity
As international commerce, trade and supply lines will continue to operate, Canada has plenty of food which continues to reach grocery stores on a regular basis.
The Government of Canada is working with established national and regional networks to help improve access to food for people experiencing food insecurity. Up to $100 million in funding is going to food banks and other local food organizations.
Details about this initiative are at Supporting people experiencing food insecurity in Canada because of COVID-19.
Sanitization and quarantine protocols
For information on sanitization practices, please consult Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): CFIA information for industry. For information on quarantine and isolation best practices, please visit canada.ca/coronavirus.
COVID-19 and food
There is no evidence that food is a transmission route for the virus.
At this time, there have been no reported cases of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has strong measures in place to ensure the safety of Canada's food supply. If the CFIA becomes aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to protect Canada's food supply and to inform the public and industry.
All Canadians should continue to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as:
- washing hands
- regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- cooking meat thoroughly
- avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods
Support for non-profit organizations
A Food Rescue Canadian Alliance Task Force has been launched for food suppliers across the supply chain and not-for-profit organizations to work together to ensure food gets to Canadians and communities at-risk of food insecurity. Food Rescue and Food Mesh support the redistribution of surplus food to those who need it.
For funding support, not-for-profit organizations are asked to contact the five organizations that received funding directly.
Scientific research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
To protect the health and safety of our employees and Canadians, AAFC has scaled back its research activities.
We can assure Canadians that the department will continue to work on developing:
- new crop varieties;
- innovations; and
- ongoing contributions to agricultural research through knowledge and technology transfer.
The department is monitoring the situation closely and adapting as the situation evolves.
At the onset of the pandemic, AAFC staff focused on caring for livestock and insect colonies; maintaining genetic material, specialized laboratory equipment and biocontainment facilities. As the situation evolved, the Department resumed providing time-sensitive support to the agricultural sector, such as distributing breeder seed to seed producers and taking care AAFC land.
Most recently, a number of field-dependent research activities resumed with the onset of the 2020 planting season and easing of some provincial-level restrictions. This included, but is not limited to, pre-registration variety trials, advanced yield trials, and variety development activities, integrated pest management and agri-environmental studies.
During this time, many of our research teams are adapting to working at home and are continuing other activities to advance research in support of the Canadian agricultural sector.
AAFC is monitoring the situation closely and is committed to continue working with its partners and stakeholders to explore how and when we can initiate further science activities. The department will continue to adapt as the situation evolves.
Additional resources for producers and businesses
Provincial and territorial resources
Each jurisdiction has developed unique resources based on that province’s local laws as well as federal guidance. Please refer to the provincial government sites below for additional information
Additional industry resources (CFA, CHARC, and more)
The following Canadian organizations have developed a series of industry resources to help guide the agriculture sector during COVID-19:
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