In response to challenges farmers are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $5-billion increase in lending capacity for farmers and food producers in Ottawa on Monday morning.
“Starting today, farmers and producers can apply through Farm Credit Canada for the support they need to keep food growing and get it on our tables,” he said.
In a statement, Trudeau’s office said “this will offer increased flexibility to farmers who face cash-flow issues and to processors who are impacted by lost sales, helping them remain financially strong during this difficult time.”
Trudeau added on Twitter that all eligible farmers with Advance Payments Program (APP) loans due on or before April 30 will have an additional six months to pay them back.
According to Trudeau’s office, the Stay of Default deferral will represent $173 million in deferred loans
But Don Anderson, senior vice-president of western operations for FCC, cautioned that the assistance is still a loan that needs to be paid back; providing just a short-term solution.
“The big part now is just having the cash to get the 2020 crop in the ground” Anderson said.
“That’s our goal right now, is to ensure that producers have that option available to them so the 2020 crop isn’t in jeopardy before you even get started.”
Dave Bishop, chair of Alberta Barley, said that while it’s nice of the government to recognize the farming industry, the announcement doesn’t solve any of the challenges facing producers.
“Just allowing us to borrow more money really doesn’t fix the issues that we have today,” Bishop said.
“We need the issues fixed such as transportation, trade issues… we had the harvest from hell last fall, those are the issues that need to be fixed.”
Bishop said the biggest stress farmers currently face is uncertainty.
“Right now, things look OK, but we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.
“The risk is going to be that some of our suppliers will shut down and we won’t be able to get our inputs for seeding. And we have to have that. We only have a short time frame in the spring to get our seeding done.”
A news release posted on the FCC website says that existing customers should contact their relationship manager or the FCC customer service centre.