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Coronavirus: What the Canadian government is doing to support farmers

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As the federal government pinpoints essential services across the country, agriculture and food security have become hot topics of discussion. As Emily Olsen reports, more may be in store for producers in need of government support – Apr 6, 2020

The Canadian government has now listed agriculture as an essential service, acknowledging both the importance of the industry, as well as its place in the economy.

“Some [places] more than others, prices are going up,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said. “Something we are all looking at… is how can we make sure that the supply chain doesn’t suffer from all the disruption we’re going through right now.”

Adding to the extra $5 billion in accessible loans from Farm Credit Canada, the federal government has added producers to the list of businesses able to access the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

READ MORE: Trudeau increases Farm Credit Canada’s lending capacity by $5B amid COVID-19 crisis

“The idea is not to increase their debts,” Bibeau said. “But to help them have more flexibility managing their cash flow.”

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Southern Alberta farmer Brian Hildebrand hasn’t been feeling the pinch from the pandemic just yet, but he has noticed the changes.

“I must give a hats off to a lot of my suppliers who are finding different ways of doing business that keep things going,” he said. “It’s strange not to go into a business to get supplies.”

He say he is very aware of how this global crisis could impact not only his business, but the food available around the world, if his family, employees or colleagues should fall ill.

“Making sure everyone stays healthy for their own wellbeing and also for the business, so we can get crops in the ground and get the crops started.”

Government officials looking to the future say they recognize the importance of supporting farmers like Hildebrand in the industry now in order to build back the economy later.

READ MORE: Canada’s agriculture sector scrambling to offset consequences of COVID-19 crisis

“I think when we come out of this we are going to be in a very deep financial hole,” Shadow Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food John Barlow said.

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“I don’t think there’s any question about that, and we’re going to be looking at industries that can help us dig ourselves out of this.

“And certainly, agriculture has to be one of those… As we know, in four to five months, people may not be buying cars and may not be buying houses, but they’re certainly going to be buying food.”

Despite looming uncertainty, the farmers still working hard want Canadians to know they are continuing to persevere.

“We are working hard to make sure that those supplies stay in place, working with our suppliers, with supply chains, to keep everything moving as much as we can, both for domestic use as well as for export,” Hildebrand said.

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