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Nova Scotia agrifood groups hail federal support package as a good first step

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Nova Scotia agrifood stakeholders are welcoming a $252-million federal support package as a good first step in bailing them out of trouble during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the outbreak began, some local producers say they’ve lost major customers, including hotels and restaurants. Others say they’ve had trouble moving pigs and cattle to processing plants in other provinces.

Tuesday’s funding announcement in Ottawa is a good “initial investment,” said Brad McCallum, managing director for both Pork Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers.

“We still have to see a lot of the details to come around the programming in the coming weeks, but definitely excited that we’re finally on the radar for some help during this pandemic.”

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The funding package includes roughly $77 million to improve hygiene and personal protective equipment stocks in processing plants, and $125 million to support those struggling to get animals to slaughter and accruing expenses while they wait.

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The federal government has also started a new “Surplus Food Purchase Program” that will spend more than $50 million scooping up unsold food and redistributing it to programs that help reduce food insecurity.

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Veggie farmer Allan Melvin, who is also the treasurer and secretary of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, said this cross-commodity fund should support anyone with excess goods at the end of the season.

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“From our personal farm’s perspective, we just want to see some assurance that there’s programs in place for us if and when they’re needed. We really hope they’re not needed, we just want to get our food off the field and onto people’s plates at the end of the day.”

He noted that the funds fall short of the $2.6-billion request for help last month from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which is why he considers Tuesday’s package “a start.”

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READ MORE: Trudeau pledges $252M for agriculture industry hard-hit by COVID-19

Michael Trombley, co-owner of the Meadowbrook Meat Market, said since the pandemic began, his business has lost about 30 of its regular buys, including some restaurants.

He told Global News that he would welcome the federal dollars meant to support food processors with the purchase of additional PPE.

“We require our drivers to wear gloves and have hand sanitizer. We carry masks with us, but any help that we could get to do more of that would be beneficial.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

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