COVID-19 Update: April 1

Dear members,

Things are changing a mile a minute these days and we are doing our very best to keep you informed of all aspects of COVID-19 and agriculture. I am going to break down today’s update into a few sections for clarity.

Business Implications
The province has developed an employer assessment tool for you to use so you can determine if your business can stay open and what protocols you must follow to comply with the current Public Health Orders. The link to the assessment can be found here.

Financial Implications
We know we are facing a lot of financial challenges at this time. We continue to advocate for better financial assistance for farmers; including improved BRM programs, interest forgiveness, no-penalty deferrals and access to funds to support cashflow.

Labour Implications
Everyone is aware of the challenges facing those with TFWs on-farm. There are workers ready to arrive and flight details are being finalized – but the last and biggest piece of the puzzle is to get proper isolation protocols in place for the first 14 days. The most recent update we have received through F.A.R.M.S. is that the earliest workers will potentially be arriving is April 14. As of today, there has been a working group established with the NSFA, Perennia and NSDA to coordinate the logistics of getting the isolation facilities, transportation and protocols in place. This group will be working with the many other key players who are essential to making this happen. The goal is to provide an off-farm isolation facility to mitigate risks of international travel to our farm businesses and we are still working out the specific details of how this will work. Carolyn Van Den Heuvel is our representative on this group – please feel free to reach out to her with your specific questions.

There are concerns related to requirements to pay wages during the 14-day isolation and what coverage is available should a worker become sick later in the season. We are seeking legal clarification on all aspects related to EI, contracts, etc.

There has been a new job board developed on the NSFA website along with an Employee Registration – if you have a job or know someone looking for work, go to our website and you will find the applications under “Resources”.

We are working with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the Department of Agriculture to determine what types of programs and initiatives can support the labour shortage in our industry. This extends beyond those challenges faced by TFWs but those with workers out sick, on quarantine or for childcare reasons. These conversations are ongoing and we will share information as available.

Farm Resources
Our staff are working on the development of resources for proper protocols and procedures to be implemented on-farm – these will be made available in the coming days. If you have questions related to protocols, please reach out to our staff and they will be happy to help you.

Public Relations
Our staff are working on an awareness campaign related to food security along with the importance of TFWs to our supply chain. This campaign will be focused on Nova Scotian farmers assuring their families, friends and community members that their food is safe, their supply is reliable, and their operations can be trusted.

I know that is a lot of information to process but we wanted to make sure that you all know the work that is going on behind the scenes. We are here for you and doing our very best in trying to support you through these times. Now, more than ever, we need to be clear that we are in this together as an industry. We will come out the other side, but only if we work together and communicate openly.

Thank you all for your patience and for the work you do in ensuring food security in Nova Scotia each and every day.

Victor Oulton