Ministry of Agriculture takes action during COVID-19 pandemic

March 24, 2020

This is a message from the BC Ministry of Agriculture. To view this on your browser link here: Ministry takes action during COVID-19 pandemic.

Dear friends,

Thank you for doing your best in the fight against COVID-19!

As a member of the cabinet of British Columbia, I can say with great sincerity that your provincial government is working incredibly hard to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We are in this together and we will get through it together.

As the minister of agriculture, I want to comment on two of the many urgent issues that my ministry is prioritizing on behalf of B.C.’s farm, fish and food sector.

The first is seasonal labour. Seasonal labourers are a crucial and appreciated part of our food supply system. Every year more than 10,000 seasonal farm workers travel from their homes to work on farms and food-processing locations all over the province. They come from different regions, provinces and countries.

It is the federal government that determines who can enter Canada and under what conditions. The Ministry of Agriculture’s executive team is working with the federal government and other provinces on a daily basis regarding foreign labour.

I want to acknowledge the work done by the federal government as reflected in the announcement they made on March 20, 2020: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2020/03/canada-provides-update-on-exemptions-to-travel-restrictions-to-protect-canadians-and-support-the-economy.html

To safeguard health and food security, temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector will be allowed under specific conditions to travel to Canada. I will be redoubling my efforts and working closely with key stakeholders and decision-makers – including foreign governments and the provincial health officer of B.C. – to help farmers and processors safely employ the foreign farmworkers they need. This is an urgent matter and with the proper precautions in place, it will benefit all British Columbians, as we all need access to safe, fresh, local food.

We are also actively looking at new ways to encourage employment opportunities for British Columbians in the agriculture sector.

Second, farmers markets. Under additional conditions regarding COVID-19, farmers markets can continue to operate in B.C. at this time. The Ministry of Agriculture is working directly with the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets to assist with this season, and I'm pleased to share that the ministry will be providing financial support for it to develop an operating model better suited to times of a pandemic.

Farmers in B.C. are a fundamental part of our food system, and farmers markets come in many shapes and sizes. Regrettably, at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic means they will not be about socializing and community. They will be focused on serving a very important purpose, though: helping people all over this province access fresh, locally grown or raised meat and other proteins, vegetables, fruit and many more foods and beverages. I want to thank everyone who works in the farm, fish and food sector – you are critical, and we appreciate you!

I'm so proud of the agricultural sector that is working to adapt and keep on going. The harvest season comes early in many parts of B.C., so the work demands are already enormous. For farmers and others in the sector who need help, please see these messages I put out previously:

A summary of the agri-related federal economic measures that we have so far, coming from the announcement that was made by the government: https://www.facebook.com/lana.popham/posts/10158371874553804

Ministry outreach to agriculture, food and fish stakeholders around the province: https://www.facebook.com/lana.popham/posts/10158366953268804

Thank you for helping us all get through this.

Lana Popham
Minister of Agriculture

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