As Canada begins the slow and hopefully steady recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic over the coming weeks and months, agriculture will undoubtedly be one of the key drivers of the turnaround.
In fact, without a vibrant and healthy agriculture industry, Canada’s move towards normality will be seriously hampered. And without a reliable food production system in place going forward, the consequences will be felt in every village, town and city.
Whether the federal and provincial governments are prepared to support the industry until the recovery is complete remains an open question.
What is known is that, according to producers, recent initiatives coming out of the federal government in support of the agriculture industry are wholly inadequate.
Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a $252 million relief package for agriculture and agri-food. Producers have been asking for $2.6 billion.
Jeff Nielson -- an Olds-area farmer and the president of the 60,000-member Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) -- said the new relief package fails to adequately address pressing needs.
“While we recognize the urgent challenges faced by other commodities, the announcement does nothing for grain farmers,” said Nielsen. “This relief package offers no resolutions to our existing issues, which result from long-standing market access challenges, rail blockages, and 2019’s harvest from hell.”
Red Deer-Mountain View Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen says the aid package is "definitely too little and clearly show the callous disregard this government has for the interests and welfare of the agricultural community."
For his part, Trudeau says the relief package is only a beginning and that more support for the agriculture industry will be unveiled in the coming months.
“We will be there for our agricultural producers because they are so important to all Canadians. The hard work they do and the support they give us all needs to be respected, reflected on, and mostly, supported,” said Trudeau.
Agriculture producers across Canada, and the community-at-large, will expect the prime minister to keep his word that further support will be forthcoming.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.