(The Canadian Press)

Details on federal food buy-back program coming soon, Bibeau says

The funds won’t address the entirety of the problem facing farmers

Details of a program that will see the federal government buy surplus food from farmers and redistribute it to food banks and other community groups are coming soon, Liberal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau promised Tuesday.

The government announced the $50-million plan nearly a month ago as part of a suite of efforts to help the agricultural industry cope with the fallout from COVID-19.

Farmers are grappling with a surprise surfeit of products, as restaurants and the hospitality industry have largely shut down due to distancing restrictions. That means there’s more food than there are consumers.

Among the results: potatoes are piling up and going bad in warehouses, milk is being poured down drains and there are too many cattle and pigs for processors to handle.

At the same time, food banks and community groups had been reporting increased demand for assistance as millions of Canadians suddenly found themselves unemployed.

Bibeau said the final details of how to marry the over-supply of food with the increase in demand for help are being worked out now.

“It’s a matter of days before we inform everyone of the criteria of the programs but we have already started to work with the different industries who have surpluses that they can offer to the food-bank networks,” she said Tuesday.

The funds won’t address the entirety of the problem facing farmers; when it comes to potatoes alone, some 700 truckloads are currently going bad in New Brunswick alone, farmers there said late last week.

Those potatoes are last year’s crop. Farmers are now struggling with how much to plant this year given uncertain demand come harvest time.

Bibeau said there are other avenues available to the industry to deal with those pressures, pointing — again — to existing risk-management programs.

Bibeau has insisted that the $252-million aid package she rolled out for the industry last month could be increased if farmers took full advantage of the existing supports.

Those programs are cost-shared with the provinces, and Bibeau said talks continue with them to see if they’ll pony up more money this year.

But she said one element Ottawa won’t move ahead on is a carbon-tax rebate for grain farmers. They had argued the carbon tax was hurting their bottom lines, given the massive amount of energy needed to dry their product.

Bibeau said Tuesday an analysis by the federal agriculture department concluded the actual cost is minimal, less than half a per cent of operating expenses for farms.

Only some of the COVID-19 related funding the Liberals have rolled out to help farmers is new money.

On Tuesday, Bibeau announced that some previously announced cash was also now being made available to help with the issue of food security.

Approximately $43.4 million has been freed up out of the local food infrastructure fund, part of a five-year program that was launched as part of a broader federal food policy in 2019.

Altogether, $50 million was allocated to reduce food insecurity and the first round of proposals saw 362 projects receive a total of $6.6 million.

Bibeau announced the program would now take applications for the second round of funding.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Food Bank

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Tumbleweeds perform at live and socially distant concert in Kimberley

On Friday, the Kimberley Golf Club hosted a wonderful event. For $30,… Continue reading

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

RCMP confirm fatality in Bootleg Mountain biking accident

Kimberley RCMP have confirmed there was a fatality in a mountain biking… Continue reading

No serious injuries reported after head-on collision near Fort Steele

Traffic was stopped for several hours on Highway 93 while police investigated.

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

New comet appears in pre-dawn sky above Cranbrook

Neowise can be seen without a telescope over the next couple of weeks

Most Read