COVID-19 - Information for the agriculture and agri-food industry
AAFC hosts COVID-19 information sharing calls with stakeholders every second Wednesday at 12:00 pm EST. The next call will be held on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. If you would like to participate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Services and information
COVID-19 specific programs for farmers, food processors and other businesses
Last updated 2020-07-13
Answers about support for producers, processors and agri-food businesses facing hardship as a result of COVID-19
Last updated 2020-07-13
How to take advantage of employment opportunities in the agriculture and agri-food sector
COVID-19 public health guidance for the sector, control plan checklist
Public health information for farm businesses, especially those with temporary foreign workers
Minister Bibeau highlights $12.8 million to improve worker safety and strengthen the food supply chain in Quebec
Canada's Ministers of Agriculture agree to implement a key improvement to the AgriStability program to better support farmers
- Government of Canada invests $2.6 million to help improve safety of agri-food workers in Nova Scotia
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.
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:
- Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy
- Canadian Emergency Business Account
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit - Even though the CERB has ended, you can apply retroactively.
- After CERB: Transitioning to new benefits
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has created an online tool to help businesses find a tailored list of government programs and services. For more information, please visit innovation.canada.ca.
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.
The Canadian Dairy Commission's borrowing limit was increased by $200 million to support the costs associated with the temporary storage of cheese and butter to avoid food waste.
An AgriRecovery initiative of up to $125 million in funding was launched to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19.
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.
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.
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
- Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund
- GST/HST credit
- Tax relief
- Support for employers and employees
- Students and youth
- Access to credit
Farm workers, jobs and temporary foreign workers
Pre-departure COVID-19 testing
On December 31, 2020, in order to help prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada, the Government of Canada announced new mandatory requirements for all air travellers to Canada, including temporary foreign workers.
These measures, which came into force January 7, 2021, include the following:
- Travellers must provide a negative laboratory test result for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours of departure to Canada. The test must be performed by an accredited lab in the source country using one of two types of COVID-19 tests – either a molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test.
- Airlines will be verifying the negative tests, so passengers must retain copies of test results and must present them prior to boarding.
These measures are in addition to the existing requirements, such as providing a quarantine plan and mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival to Canada, among others. There are currently no exemptions for temporary foreign workers.
On January 6, 2021, the Government announced additional information regarding the requirements. Specifically, there are time-limited flexibilities for travellers departing from some countries in recognition of the need for testing systems to adjust. Travellers departing from Saint Pierre and Miquelon are exempt from the new requirements until January 14, 2021, and travellers departing from Haiti are exempt until January 21, 2021. That being said, these travellers are strongly encouraged to get a COVID-19 test once they arrive in Canada. In addition, travellers departing from Mexico and Jamaica, as well as some Caribbean, Central American and South America countries can use tests conducted within 96 hours of departure (instead of 72 hours) until 00:01 EST on January 14, 2021. A full list of countries can be found here.
In addition, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is leading efforts to collect information on testing availability and capacity in key source countries. This information is being updated regularly and posted to the www.travel.gc.ca website under the health tab per country of interest.
Additional information, including questions and answers, is available online.
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.
Travellers, including Temporary Foreign Workers entering Canada, can use the ArriveCAN app to submit the COVID-19 information required at the border, reducing their wait time and minimizing contact, and stay up to date on the latest government information. Get the ArriveCAN app.
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.
Emergency On-Farm Support Fund (EOFSF)
- Following the July 31st Government announcement of additional investments in measures to boost protections for Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) and address COVID-19 outbreaks on farms, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) launched a new $35 million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund (EOFSF).
- The program is intended to support immediate needs related to changes required on farms to ensure the health and safety of domestic and temporary foreign workers due to COVID-19, and limit the spread of the disease on agricultural operations.
- Recipients will be primary producers. In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must confirm in writing that all applicable measures of the Quarantine Act are being adhered to, including but not limited to the mandatory 14-day isolation period for TFW.
- Eligible activities can be retroactive to March 15, 2020 and must be completed by February 26, 2021.
- The EOFSF has an end date of March 31, 2021, which means all disbursements must be made by the federal government by that date.
- The application process is open, with some variation in opening dates between provinces and territories.
Public health guidance and
personal protective equipment (PPE) resources
Protecting Our People program
BC Food and Beverage (BCFB) created the Protecting Our People program to help small-to medium-sized enterprises in the food supply chain have better access to affordable PPE at a relatively competitive price, similar to what larger companies are able to obtain through bulk purchases. The program is offered nationally to companies from the entire food supply chain, including agriculture, fish harvesters, the food processing industry (including seafood processors), and independent retail grocers.
Essential Services Contingency Reserve (ESCR)
- On July 16, the Prime Minister announced a federal investment of more than $19 billion to help provinces and territories safely restart their economies. News Release.
- Part of this investment is being used to establish the Essential Services Contingency Reserve (ESCR), which will help essential service organizations bridge urgent, short-term gaps in personal protective equipment (PPE) when other sources of supply are unavailable and to avoid any significant disruptions in services to Canadians. Eligible organizations will be able to apply online for a range of equipment available for purchase at cost. Full details on the reserve, including the application process and eligibility criteria, are available on the Essential Services Contingency Reserve web page.
Workplace guidance for the sector
Agriculture and Agri-food Canada has compiled federal public health guidance for sector employers and employees during COVID-19. The guidance is updated regularly in close consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
PPE federal supply hub
The Government of Canada has launched the federal supply hub to provide information for organizations buying and selling personal protective equipment (PPE). The hub provides resources and consumer guidance for PPE and is updated regularly.
COVID-19 control plan checklist
This COVID-19 control plan checklist has been developed as a resource to help farm businesses put in place a plan for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. While targeted to businesses with temporary foreign workers, its criteria and considerations in a simple checklist format are useful for all agricultural businesses.
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.
CFIA has posted updated information on temporary flexibility for non-food safety labelling and packaging requirements for pre-packaged meat products during COVID-19. Details can be found on CFIA's information for industry webpage.
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
- As it relates to laboratory, greenhouse and barn activities, AAFC started re-entry back in the middle of August. As of October 13, all 20 AAFC research centres have resumed a number of laboratory, greenhouse and barn activities.
- The health and safety of their employees continues to be the number-one priority in all decision making and the department will be closely monitoring the situation across the country, continuing to adhere to guidance from local and provincial authorities.
- AAFC will continue to focus on a gradual resumption of further activities provided that local conditions remain favourable.
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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