Updates for COTA Members Re: COVID-19 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) as well as watch for other important government announcements. Our objective is to keep information flowing between industry and government – to provide critical information to assist you all in guiding your businesses during COVID-19 measures being in place
Friday, April 17th
Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program Update.
Earlier this week, the government announced a new $50 million program to provide up to $1500 per employee to assist with the financial burdens of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. See the government’s announcement here. It was conveyed in today’s call that employers would need to prove adherence that the 14-day quarantine has been respected and therefore to not expect that the financial assistance would be up front. Further details are not yet available. This announced urgently in order to convey to employers that assistance will be made available and build confidence that employers would not have to take on all these costs in the long-term.
Arrivals of TFW, AAFC is working with Canadian Border Services (CBSA) to enable tracking of arrivals of TFW to ensure this essential labour force is able to enter Canada. As of last weekend, 2000 arrivals of TFW had occurred since the policy was created to allow for TFW to enter Canada. As of this morning, it has doubled to over 4000 arrivals in Canada.
Fifteen additional flights will be arriving over the weekend. Most flights have been arriving in Toronto and Montreal. Now Halifax and Vancouver has started to receive flights. A flight from Nicaragua arrived in recent days in Calgary. There have been multiple flights from Mexico arriving. There have been issues on flights arriving from Guatemala which AAFC resolved by speaking directly to Guatemalan authorities. Flights were scheduled for this week yet experienced delays due to Easter but a flight is currently enroute to Montreal with two to three additional flights from Guatemala scheduled to arrive over the weekend.
Essential workers: Technicians
On Wednesday, the Chief Health Officer announced the technicians that are necessary for the maintenance of equipment or other machinery for essential services could be granted a written exemption from the 14-day quarantine for essential services.
Today CFIA is posting a notice to industry to advise that the USDA and Canada have agreed to a 6-month extension to continue the export of meat and pet food to allow for uninterrupted trade.
Japan updated its emergency measures and now has extended its coverage to the entire country of Japan. (previously limited to 7 districts). Restaurant closures are not mandated but consumers are asked to demonstrate self-restraint and some restaurants appear to be closing to assist the containment of the virus.
AAFC programming for agriculture and agri-food sectors
The Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) announced changes this week to broaden eligibility. Original rules indicated that individuals could not earn additional income which disqualified many part-time, occasional workers. The new criteria permits an individual to earn up to $1000/month.
Announced yesterday, there have also been changes to the criteria to the Canada Emergency Business account. The original criteria indicated that an organization must have $50,000 of payroll expenses but it has now been lowered to $25,000. These changes are estimated to see an increase of 10,000-11,000 of farms that now will be eligible.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact COTA’s Executive Director, Tia Loftsgard at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-482-1717 ext. 200.