Updates for COTA Members from from Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada/Canadian Food Inspection Agency

The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), as the national voice of Canada’s organic sector, is continuing to participate in regular conference calls being hosted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Our objective is to keep information flowing between industry and government – to provide critical information to assist you all in guiding your businesses.

Updates from the Monday, March 23rd call:

1. Labour shortages (Temporary Foreign Workers): Following discussions last week, the federal government made a move to provide exemptions to the travel ban, to allow for the entry of Temporary Foreign Workers under specific conditions. View the government’s news release here. The specific exemption is for “seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers”. There may still be issues in the foreign countries (getting planes in and people out) and restrictions and quarantine obligations on these workers upon their arrival.

2. Maintenance of Organic Certification: This continues to be a major concern for the organic sector. CFIA is in the process of prioritizing its capacity to maintain critical activities (it defines food safety vs quality) and is considering how to respect operations’ health and safety protocols while maintaining its food safety program work. Prior to today’s call, COTA had asked the questions directly to the government regarding potential alternative inspection procedures for our sector, especially where the issue is most acute - the Maple Syrup industry where the annual harvest is just underway. We expect more from CFIA this week.
3. Urgent Survey - Supply Chain Pressures:  To provide timely and credible information to governments, COTA has just provided a SurveyMonkey survey for members to complete. We encourage you to fill out the survey here. We are asking that members take three minutes and complete the survey prior to end-of-day Thursday, March 26.
4. Financial Help. The government announced the Business Credit Availability Program, which will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses. The near term credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada (FCC).
4. New Government Webpage: to try to provide current information to the industry, AAFC has created a new webpage for the dissemination of details. It can be accessed here for the most current information from AAFC.

The next call is scheduled for later this week.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact COTA's Policy and Research Manager, Brian Lemon by email or by calling 613-482-1717 ext. 206. 
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