Trudeau's daily coronavirus update: $252 million fund to help the agri-food industry (Full transcript)

In his May 5 briefing to Canadians, the PM announced funds to help farmers and food producers deal with market changes and surpluses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hello, everyone.

Before we get started, I want to note that today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. On this day, we remember the Canadians and Newfoundlanders who liberated the Netherlands from the tyranny of the Nazis. We also pay tribute to the deep bonds that were forged between Canada and the Netherlands.

We honour the incredible courage and sacrifice of our veterans in whom we are forever in their debt. Time and time again, Canadians step up in periods of crisis to help each other, to help our friends.

We saw it 75 years ago on the battlefields of the Second World War and we’re seeing it once again during this pandemic.

[Translated from French] These days, everyone working in the food industry is working harder than ever to fill the shelves of our grocery stores. They continue to work long hours to feed us and the pandemic is making things more complicated for them. Workers must take additional measures to protect themselves. They must change the way they work and respect physical distancing. And since hotels and restaurants are closed, many producers are now dealing with significant surpluses of certain goods. From the outset we have said we would be there for people who need a hand. So today we are announcing a new investment of more than $252 million to help the agri-food industry and help it get through this crisis. Of that amount, we will be allocating more than $77 million dollars to food processors in order to protect the safety of their workers. This is money that they will be able to use to buy more personal protective equipment or adjust their hygiene protocols or other measures such as physical distancing. It will also allow processors to adapt their plants so that they can produce more goods in Canada. [end of translation]

Today, we are announcing more than $77 million to support food processors during this crisis. This is money that they can use to purchase personal protective equipment for workers, adapt to health protocols and support other social distancing measures. It will also help expand or adapt our processing capacity to increase the amount of Canadian products we make domestically.

To help cattle and hog producers we will launch $125 million National Agri-Recovery Initiative. Farms and processing plants are raising more animals than the system can process into things like steak and bacon because of COVID-19. For many farmers, this crisis means that they have to keep animals for longer periods of time and that can be expensive. So with this funding, we’re giving extra help to beef and pork producers so that they can adapt to this crisis. This is an initial investment and if we need to add more, we will.

[Translated from French] With respect to dairy farmers, we intend to work with all the parties in the House to increase by $200 million the credit line of the Canadian Dairy Commission. The commission already has a program in place to store dairy products. It stores butter and cheese and has been since the beginning of this crisis and hopes and expects to reach its maximum capacity soon by increasing its credit line. We will not waste of fresh products and dairy producers will be more able to deal with the consequences of this crisis. [end of translation]

With hotels and restaurants closed too much of certain types of food like milk, butter and potatoes is being produced. While some donations have been made to food banks, we don’t have the capacity right now to redistribute such large quantities of food and some producers have no choice but to throw out their product. It’s a waste of food and a loss of revenue for the people who worked so hard to produce it. To avoid this, we’re launching a surplus food purchase program, starting with a $50 million fund. The government will buy large quantities of certain products at risk of going waste like, say, potatoes or poultry and redistribute them to organizations addressing food insecurity. This will help ensure that our farmers are being compensated for their hard work and that our most vulnerable have access to fresh food during this crisis. Taken together, these measures represent a $252 million investment to support the people who keep our grocery stores stocked and our families fed.

[Translated from French] In fact, I’d like to take a moment to to thank Minister Bibeau for her work on this file. [end of translation]

That said, we know that farmers still have concerns about what this pandemic means for their industry long term. Having enough workers for harvesting, later in the season. Having enough personal protective equipment for workers. These are valid concerns. And I can assure you that we are working with farmers, stakeholders and provinces and territories to find lasting solutions. I want to close today by thanking every person who works in our food industry. People are spending a lot more time in the kitchen cooking for an elderly neighbour, cooking for themselves, discovering new recipes, trying to make sourdough. These days, especially, cooking and baking is about more than nourishment. It’s also about relieving stress, finding a community, supporting each other, creating memories. You helped make that possible. So we’re here for all of you in the agri-food industry, and we will continue to be here for you.

Thank you very much.


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