On behalf of Canada’s fruit and vegetable growers, the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) applauds the federal government’s commitment to COVID recovery and maintaining environmental goals for our country. However, we are disappointed at the allocation of funding for agriculture in Monday’s Budget 2021 announcement, as it fails to adequately recognize our sector’s important role in a post-pandemic economic recovery.
“While the past year has been incredibly challenging for fruit and vegetable growers in Canada, we remain optimistic about our sector’s resiliency,” said Jan VanderHout, CHC’s president and a greenhouse vegetable grower in Waterdown, Ontario. “In light of the challenges we face, we had hoped to receive more support from the federal budget. However, we are not deterred, and will advocate further for our policy priorities directly with legislators and decision makers.”
Our Council was particularly dissatisfied with the omission of a major primary pre-budget recommendation: the establishment of a financial protection mechanism for fresh fruit and vegetable growers. This would have been a no-cost solution for government with the potential to save countless farming businesses from financial hardship.
“As Canadians continue to deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19, ensuring a stable and secure supply of fresh food remains critical,” added Rebecca Lee, CHC’s executive director. “A greater consideration for cost certainty, through financial protection and stable business risk management programming, would go a long way to equipping our fruit and vegetable growers with the tools to survive and thrive.”
Another issue we have identified, particularly over the past year, was the lack of meaningful support to keep farms in business throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, causing fruit and vegetable growers to lose significant amounts of production and income and putting Canada’s food supply at risk. A secure business risk environment was partially addressed in Monday’s announcement, through the extension of the Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program. But while a welcome development, CHC does remain concerned that the program funding is scheduled to be reduced post-June 15, 2021 and will lobby to ensure the necessary supports are in place – where needed.
Going forward, CHC’s board and executive will be engaging the federal government on some other unaddressed recommendations. These include the acknowledgement that growers are part of the solution when it comes to climate change, through carbon sequestration and the adoption of innovative best management practices.
CHC was pleased to see Budget 2021’s commitment towards the establishment of more resilient water and irrigation infrastructure via $17.4 million over two years to Environment and Climate Change Canada. This was a key request made by CHC during pre-budget consultations, and we are appreciative of its inclusion. Another positive highlight is the $1 billion towards Canada’s Universal Broadband Fund. This represents a major step forward for growers who run their business in rural areas, far from existing internet infrastructure.
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Canadian Horticultural Council