Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture

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



COVID-19 Update: March 30

Dear members,

As you may have heard, the federal government’s guidelines related to temporary foreign workers is now available, you can find them here. These guidelines state that all TFWs will be required to quarantine on their arrival, there are no exemptions for this. The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture is working on the logistics of supporting the quarantine period as we speak. Keep in mind, workers are unable to work during this 14-day quarantine period.

In an effort to help lessen the labour gap that Nova Scotia farms will experience this year especially, NSFA and the Agriculture Sector Program have launched three new pieces on the NSFA website.

First, is a page for our members to post job availability on their operations. All you have to do is answer all the necessary questions and a job description will be formulated. After being reviewed by NSFA staff, it will be posted on the newly developed job board on the NSFA website.

The second piece as mentioned above, is our new job board. This board will house all of the incoming job postings for farms and agricultural related businesses.

The third piece is an employee registration, where potential employees can fill out a registration form highlighting their skills and location. Jobs in their area will then be emailed to them.

Once we begin to receive job postings, we will start promoting this to Nova Scotians.

We are currently working with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and the Department of Agriculture to identify programs and other initiatives that we need to support the labour gap in our province.

We continue to push for stronger financial program support for farmers. Our farmers don’t need more debt or only payment deferrals. We need interest forgiveness and no penalty deferrals, as our farmers should not be faced with the entire financial burden.

In addition, we have also requested that spring weight restrictions be lifted for agriculture related travel.

Our calls with Minister Colwell and MP Kody Blois continue, and I will keep bringing you new information as often as I can. As always, if you have any questions or concerns our NSFA staff are more than willing to help! You can reach them via email or by calling the office 902-893-2293.

Until next time,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 27

Dear Members,

Today we had our regular call with Minister Colwell and MP Kody Blois, we had lots of great discussions. We continue to emphasize the need for support for our farmers so that we aren’t bearing all of the risk in ensuring food security for Nova Scotians.

As you probably saw, food and agri-food have been deemed essential service in Nova Scotia, this includes farms and processors. This means that we are exempt from the 5-person rule and the social distancing requirements on the farm and in processing facilities. We do still need to make sure that we are taking every precaution to protect ourselves and our workers so we recommend following the public health protocols as closely as you can, while still being able to work efficiently. We have been receiving lots of questions about the definition of agri-food and have requested clarity – keep you posted!

You may have also heard that the travel restrictions related to Temporary Foreign Workers have been lifted and our provincial government is working on the logistics needed in Nova Scotia for the 14-day isolation period. We will let you know when we know more.

The Farm Loan Board and FCC are available to support farmers through some of these financial challenges and we encourage you to reach out directly to them to find out how they can help. We continue to advocate for strong BRM programs to support our farmers through this.

As of next week, we will be decreasing the number of COVID-19 Update emails we send out in the run of the week. We will provide updates when there is new information that is important to the agriculture industry or if there are new developments. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office at any time for questions.

Our goal with these updates has always been to keep our members informed, up to date, and hopefully provide some comfort during such difficult times.

I wish you well,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 25

Dear Members,

I come to you with more updates related to COVID-19.

In Nova Scotia, food and agri-food businesses are considered an essential service. This means that agri-food businesses are able to stay open and are exempt from the five-person rule. We must do everything we can to ensure we as an industry, and on our own operations, are meeting the protocols set out by public health. These are necessary actions to safeguard the health of our families, our workers and the community.

For full details relating to the designation of food and agri-food businesses as an essential service, please consult the order issued by Dr. Strang. You can view this order by clicking here.

While we have been informed that temporary foreign workers will be able to come into Canada, we are still awaiting the details on the timeline and the protocols that will be in place. We are hoping to provide you with an update soon. Please know that CFA is working hard to ensure the protocols put in place by the federal government will be attainable by farming operations across the country.

We recognize that our farms will be facing delayed labour and labour shortages this season. NSFA is advocating for programs to be in place to support and supplement the labour force that will be impacted this year.

We are aware of the financial strain that this pandemic is having on our farms and the amount of risk our members are taking in order to prepare for the season. Please know that we are doing everything we can to advocate to ensure that the financial programs that will be made available to farmers are not just extra debt – we don’t want to see farmers carrying the full burden of this. Whether it be interest free deferrals, funding grants, etc.

Today we had our regular call with Minister Colwell and MP Kody Blois, I would like to personally thank them for the hard work they are putting in to support the agriculture industry through these tough times.

I would also like to thank our Federation staff, they have been working around the clock to keep us all up to date and informed on their actions, and announcements that impact us.

The agriculture industry is a tight knit group, we are all facing significant challenges as a result of COVID-19. It’s important that we all come together and stand together as one industry now and always. Check in on your neighbours, your friends, your family, and yourself. We are all in this together.

Until tomorrow,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 24

NSFA continues to advocate on behalf of our members during this difficult time, our next scheduled call with Minister Colwell and MP Kody Blois is tomorrow! We will provide you with an update tomorrow afternoon. Below are some helpful resources and information pertaining to COVID-19.

CFA Survey
CFA is reaching out weekly to Canadian farmers as the COVID-19 crisis continues, to identify any issues being caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and to your respective businesses. Below is the survey for this week, we encourage you to provide your input!
Click here to complete the survey.

Number of confirmed cases in Nova Scotia
As of today, March 24, Nova Scotia has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Social Distancing
Nova Scotians are required to practice social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing means limiting your contact with other people – stay about 2 metres (6 feet) apart. Government is requiring individuals, employers and organizations to limit social gatherings to no more than 5 people. The 5 person rule does not apply to workplaces.

State of Emergency & Travel
Nova Scotia borders have tightened to travelers and all entry points (land, sea, air) are being closely managed. Nova Scotians should only leave if essential. Anyone entering the province will be stopped, questioned and told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Exemptions for cross-border travel include healthy workers in trades and transportation sectors who move goods and people (e.g. truck drivers); healthy people going to work (e.g. health-care workers); and people travelling into the province for essential health services (e.g. chemotherapy treatment)

Farm Safety Nova Scotia – Online Courses
Farm Safety Nova Scotia is making two online courses available, free of charge for a limited time.

WHMIS
Intro to Farm Safety

Click here to enroll in the online courses!



COVID-19 Update: March 23

Dear Members,

A new week is upon us and I come to you with more updates related to COVID-19.

On Friday evening, the Government of Canada made an official announcement regarding Temporary Foreign Workers entering the country during the border closure.

Some of the key pieces from this announcement are:

  • Exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home.
  • Travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions.
  • The exemptions include: seasonal agricultural workers, fish/seafood workers, caregivers and all other temporary foreign workers (full list can be seen in the press release)
  • A temporary modification is being made to the Labour Market Impact Assessment process for agriculture and food processing employers, as the required 2-week recruitment period will be waived for the next 6 months.
  • An increase to the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years.
  • In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

If you would like to read the full press release, click here.

Another announcement of interest, the Government of Canada has announced a $5 billion boost to Farm Credit Canada’s lending capacity. The initial focus of this funding will be assisting the industry in addressing cash flow challenges. To read the news release from FCC, click here.

We continue to have regular calls with Minister Colwell and Kody Blois. These calls are an opportunity to advocate on behalf of our members on the following items:

  • Financial program supports for payment deferrals without interest and without penalties
  • Availability of labour for farms; including opportunities for incentive programs
  • That agriculture related workers be deemed essential service

This week we also sent letters to Minister Colwell and Minister Bibeau. Minister Colwell received letters regarding risk management plans for TFWs upon arrival to Nova Scotia, considering TFWs to be covered by MSI and financial program supports. Minister Bibeau received a letter regarding financial programs including Advanced Payment Programs and BRMS.

We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.

A note about the NSFA office:
In an effort to practice social distancing to ensure the health of Nova Scotians, the NSFA staff will be working remotely as of today and can be reached by email or by phone. The physical NSFA office will be closed for the foreseeable future. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Take care,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 20

Hello Members,

I come to you with a couple of updates regarding COVID-19 and the agriculture industry.

Yesterday, CFA President, Mary Robinson spoke with Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau. Minister Bibeau assured Mary that she understands the important role that TFWs play in ensuring food security in Canada and wanted to put Canadian producers’ minds at ease that details around allowing workers in will be announced shortly. We will update you on these details once they are released.

Today during the Nova Scotia government’s press conference, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board loan payments will be deferred until June 30, 2020.

Minister of Business, Geoff MacLellan announced an addition $15 million for internet providers to speed up completion of projects in order to help businesses that are operating from home.

We would like to thank the municipal, provincial and federal government for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you click here, you can see a comprehensive list of actions we have taken this week.

Yours in agriculture,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 19

Dear Members,

You may have seen articles floating around social media in the last 24 hours regarding temporary foreign workers and Canada’s border closure. Unfortunately, the information being circulated via media on announcements allowing temporary foreign workers to enter Canada is not valid. We have confirmed this with CFA.

CFA and agriculture industry partners have been working tirelessly to develop a strategy for consideration and remain cautiously optimistic.

Today during our daily call with Minister Colwell and MP Kody Blois we discussed the following topics:

  • Importance of career promotion of agriculture
  • Requested formal communication be posted that meat inspectors are considered to be essential service
  • Discussed opportunities to provide some financial relief through Farm Loan Board, Farm Credit Canada and Chartered Banks in the form of interest free deferrals and access to lines of credit to support cashflow
  • Requested further consideration be given to AgriStability being increased to 85%
  • Requested consideration be given to increase the interest free amount of APP for all commodities and allow payment deferrals without penalty

We are committed to doing the best we can for our members and will continue to update you on the efforts being made across the agriculture industry in the wake of COVID-19.

Look after yourselves and each other,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 18

Hello members,

We continue to receive regular updates from CFA in regards to COVID-19s impact on the agriculture industry in Canada.

Today we held a conference call with the Honourable Minister Colwell, Kody Blois, Member of Parliament for Kings – Hants, Member of Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, as well as NSFA Council Executives and staff. This call was used to update the group on COVID-19 in Canada and discuss how we are committed to working together as a group through these difficult times. We will continue to have these calls once a day, every day, for the remainder of the week. We will reassess the frequency of these calls next week. The focus of our calls is currently mostly related to the challenges with foreign workers.

In addition to labour, we have been assured that concerns related to meat inspector availability have been addressed and precautions will be taken to ensure health and safety, while ensuring continuity of service.

Below you will find our survey regarding the impact COVID-19 is having on farm labour. If you access either the Temporary Foreign Worker program or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program, I encourage you to take the time to fill out this survey. This survey will ensure we are able to better report the impact this border closure is having on farms in Nova Scotia.

Take time to call and check in on your friends, family and neighbours.

Stay safe,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



COVID-19 Update: March 17

Hello members,

A lot has transpired in the last 24 hours and we are doing our best to stay on top of the situation. We are aware of the issues that are being faced especially by those who rely on temporary foreign workers for their production.

We are receiving regular updates from CFA on all matters related to COVID-19 that have an impact on the agriculture industry. This morning we held a conference call with our farm members of the Labour Committee and our Council Executives to discuss the industry implications of COVID-19 and the federal government’s announcement regarding the closure of the border to non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents. We have also been in touch with Minister Colwell and will continue to have open dialogue with government.

Below you will find a link to relevant resources, key messages and a draft letter for your local MP. I encourage you to download this letter, personalize it and send to your Member of Parliament.

Please keep your eye out for a COVID-19 Farm Labour Impact Survey that we will be distributing shortly.

We are all in this together,

Victor Oulton
President
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture



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Phone – 902-893-2293
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