COVID-19 Resources for Organic Farmers and Producers in BC

in COABC Blog

The COABC is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in BC and is working hard to determine the impacts, stay on top of the latest information and keep the organic sector informed.

Below is a list of resources that will be updated frequently. If you have a resource to add, please get in touch with communications@certifiedorganic.bc.ca.

COABC

COABC COVID-19 Response – March 18, 2020: certifiedorganic.bc.ca/docs/3.18.2020_covid19.pdf

COABC COVID-19 Response – March 17, 2020: bcorganicgrower.ca/2020/03/coabc-covid-19-response/

 

Webinars

Future of Food Webinar Series

Dates: Every two weeks starting May 28th, from 3 pm to 4 pm (an 8-part series)
Details: Join UBC Farm for their new webinar series: Building a Resilient Food System During COVID-19 and Beyond. This webinar series will feature many of the foremost food systems experts from UBC and across BC, brought to you by the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS), the BC Food Web and the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS).

View the topics and speaker details here.

 

Recent Updates

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA)

June 28, 2020: The expanded CEBA is now open for applications. As of June 26, 2020, businesses eligible for CEBA now include owner-operated small businesses that do not have a payroll, sole proprietors receiving business income directly, as well as family-owned corporations remunerating in the form of dividends rather than payroll. Full details.

 

Mandatory COVID-19 Course for Fruit Pickers in BC

June 19, 2020: To work as a fruit picker, or to stay in a designated campsite in BC, workers must complete either the in-person or online version of AgSafe BC’s COVID-19 Awareness Course and keep proof to show their employers. More details.

 

Federal Surplus Food Program

June 16, 2020: The Federal Government‘s Surplus Food Rescue Program is a time-limited program to help manage and redirect existing surpluses to organizations addressing food insecurity and to avoid food waste during COVID-19.

The program provides an opportunity for non-profit and for-profit organizations across the supply chain to bid on significant volumes of surplus products at the cost of production or less, processing them where necessary for longer shelf life and distributing to food serving agencies. Surplus food must be donated to food serving agencies for distribution to vulnerable populations.

Information on the program and how to apply is available from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

 

Emergency Processing Fund – Western Canada

June 13, 2020: The Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC is accepting applications between $10,000 and $100,000 for the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Emergency Processing Fund for Western Canada! The program funding is designed to support specific priority areas relating to food safety and security for food processing, manufacturing or greenhouse operations.

Full details.

 

PHO: Industrial Camps and the Agriculture and Seafood Industry

June 12, 2020: Employers in the agriculture and seafood sector that provide accommodation for workers must:

  • Develop a COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) protocol
  • Appoint an Infection Prevention and Control Coordinator
  • Schedule a site inspection

Employers can schedule a site inspection by filling out the online application. The application will open soon.

Frequently Asked Questions document has been developed on how the Order applies to the Agriculture and Seafood Industry.

 

Local food infrastructure fund

June 10, 2020: The Local Food Infrastructure Fund is a five-year, $50 million initiative ending March 31, 2024. The program is part of the Government of Canada’s Food Policy. The Fund aims to strengthen food support organizations and to help improve access to safe and nutritious food for Canadians at risk.

This second call for proposals under the program will support small and large community-led projects at facilities such as urban gardens, community kitchens, food banks, and greenhouses.

Projects should be mostly infrastructure specific, community-driven and dedicated to improving access to safe and healthy foods for Canadians at risk of food insecurity.

Apply now! Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis until funding has been allocated.

 

Virtual Agriculture Town Hall

June 5, 2020: Now that the province is beginning to reopen, what’s in store for BC’s food supply? How does the BC government plan to support small farmers during this time? BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham touched on these topics and more during this virtual Agriculture Town Hall with chef Ned Bell, organic farmer Parm Bains of Westberry Farms, and ASL interpretor Nigel Howard. Check it out here.

 

BC Farm, Fish & Food Job Connector

May 28, 2020: This online platform showcases current job vacancies throughout the province, including those for crop harvesters, farm workers, agrologists and more. And, it also connects agriculture, seafood and food processing businesses to the latest sector-specific information to support their recruitment and HR management during these difficult times. Check it out here.

 

New Funding – Youth Employment and Skills Training Program

May 26, 2020: The Federal Government has announced an enhancement to the Youth Employment and Skills Program to provide a wage subsidy for employers who hire youth for agricultural jobs. The program offers support for 50% of wages to a maximum of $14,000. Eligible applicants include producers, agri-businesses, industry associations, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations and research facilities. Employers can apply on or after May 26, 2020 for their project to be considered.

 

Recommendations for U-Pick Operators, Farm Stands and Agri-tourism

May 25, 2020: Are you a u-pick, farm stand or agri-tourism operator? The Ministry of Agriculture has released new information on how to meet the Provincial Health Officer’s orders, notices and guidance for COVID-19. Full details.

 

BC Agri-Business Planning Program

May 22, 2020: The BC Agri-Business Planning Program is now open to support producers and food processors through two streams:

  • COVID-19 Business Recovery Planning to help B.C. producers and processors develop and implement an immediate and long-term recovery plan.
  • Specialized Business Planning to enable B.C. producers and processors to make more informed decisions and strengthen their business.

Full details.

 

Protecting Our People Program

May 20, 2020: Looking for essential PPE items like masks, gloves and potentially face shields and hand sanitizers? BC Food & Beverage has announced the launch of the Protecting Our People program, which provides funding and access to PPE for the food & beverage production, seafood and agriculture sectors in BC. Online ordering is set up and ready to go! Learn more at: bcfoodbeverage.wixsite.com/cv19news/ppe

 

ACA & IOIA COVID-19 Update and Best Practices

May 14th, 2020: As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to create travel restrictions which may impact organic certification, the Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA) and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) have released an industry-wide pandemic contingency plan, Contingency Plans for Verifying Compliance When On-Site Inspections are not Possible. This “Best Practices” document is the result of collaboration of over 125 participants, representing organic certifiers, independent organic inspectors, and other stakeholders. Read the document here.

 

On-Farm Food Safety Program: COVID-19 Funding Now Available

May 13, 2020: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased need for safety precautions for the agriculture sector, the On-Farm Food Safety Program is offering funding for protective and safety equipment for the April 2020 – March 2021 fiscal year. Eligible companies can seek funding to acquire personal protective equipment and other approved safety supplies for use at their facilities in order to maintain a safe workplace and mitigate the risk of COVID-19.

With applications for personal protective equipment funding only, the usually mandatory Good Agricultural Practices assessment requirement is waived.

 

Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Please see the BCAC website for updates that relate to the Temporary Foreign Workers program. For producers who employ or are expecting the arrival of temporary foreign workers through the SAWP and/or AgStream programs, please subscribe to the WALI Update email list to receive relevant COVID-19 updates and information.

 

BC Food Product Notification and Tracking Tool

May 11, 2020: The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Food Service and Distribution Working Group, has a tool to track existing overages/shortages of BC products due to COVID-19 and share this information with potential markets. The Ministry’s role is solely to make the information available to support businesses facing supply chain disruption during the COVID-19 crisis.

If you are interested, please provide Karina Sakalauskas, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Organics Specialist, with the following information and confirm if the Ministry is able to share your product and business contact information.

  • Company name; contact person, phone, email
  • Timing when product available
  • Shelf-life
  • Product specs: weight, case size, case volume, packaging
  • Food safety certifications (CFIA-inspected, GAP, HAACP, etc)
  • Is delivery available?
  • Where product is traditionally sold and who is currently carrying product
  • Cause for oversupply or product shortage/demand
  • Interest in donating product if a buyer not available

 

Agriculture and COVID-19 Safety – WorkSafeBC

May 8, 2020: WorkSafeBC has compiled information specific to the Ag Sector on how employers can minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness to themselves, workers, and others at the workplace. The information covers general precautions plus details on worker transportation, worker accommodation, temporary foreign workers and more. More details.

 

Workplace Guidance for Sector Employers and Employees

May 7, 2020: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has worked with federal partners to develop public health guidance and provide links to key resources for the agriculture and agri-food sector, based on questions received over the last few weeks. The information is now available on-line at “Workplace guidance for sector employers and employees.” AAFC will continually update this webpage as new guidance is available or as the need for more information is noted by industry, so please check back regularly.

 

Small Business BC

April 21, 2020: Small Business BC recently launched a new COVID-19 support service page as a single point of contact for BC businesses looking for information on the various government COVID-19 resources. Small Business BC advisors can be reached directly through this page, and can help you navigate through the various support services.

 

Public Health Agency of Canada – Get COVID-19 Updates

April 20, 2020: The Government of Canada is offering a new email subscription to get updates on COVID-19. Sign up here to receive an email whenever there is an important change or update. These updates will include changes to national public health advice, updates to federal services and more.

 

Canada Summer Jobs Program

April 8, 2020: The Prime Minister announced temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program that will help employers hire young Canadians aged between 15 and 30 years during the summer. Employers can receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee.

 

Small  Business BC

April 1, 2020: Small Business BC has compiled the latest resources to help prepare small businesses to get through this challenging time.

 

Go2HR Job Board

April 1, 2020: Go2HR Job Board has opened its tourism and hospitality focused job board to include the agriculture and food processing sector. This provides a unique opportunity to connect displaced tourism and hospitality employees (due to COVID-19 pandemic) with employment opportunities in agriculture.

 

Implementation of COR

March 24, 2020: CFIA news release: In light of the COVID 19 situation, the CFIA will postpone all planned audits of CVBs under the COR until the restrictions on non-essential travel are over.

The CFIA in collaboration with the CVBs, has developed criteria for remote audits of the CBs to provide flexibility and reduce the need for onsite audits by the CVBs. The CFIA will support CVBs taking appropriate measures and adjusting their surveillance activities.

The CFIA will allow flexibility in CBs inspection frequency for renewal of current organic certification. The CFIA accredited CBs are also requested to assess the risks of continuing certification and establish a documented process outlining the steps they intend to take, in case an operator is affected by the COVID-19 and/or on-site inspection is not possible due to travel restrictions.

Read the full release here.

 

Industry Updates

BC Ministry of Agriculture

Minister Lana Popham has an active Facebook page with regular updates on the Ministry’s activities.

 

BC Association of Farmers’ Markets Association (BCAFM)

Latest updates for markets, vendors and consumers: bcfarmersmarket.org/bcafm-covid19

 

BC Agriculture Council

Updates for BC farmers and ranchers, particularly regarding seasonal agricultural workers: bcac.ca

 

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

FAQ and information for employees and industry: https://inspection.gc.ca/eng/1297964599443/1297965645317

 

AgSafe

COVID-19 emergency planning resources: agsafebc.ca/tools/emergency-planning-resources

 

 

Other resources

BC Ministry of Health

Latest news releases: news.gov.bc.ca/ministries/health

 

Conference Board of Canada

The latest updates, data, forecasts, research on the growing spread of coronavirus, and useful tools that will help you and your organizations navigate these challenging times: www.conferenceboard.ca/insights/covid-19

 

COVID-19 Business Support Resources Summarized by Small Business BC

 

Mental Health Resources