Federal government invests for B.C. farm workers

TFW program consultations launched

Federal government invests for B.C. farm workers

The federal government is investing $4.9 million under the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund to help British Columbia (B.C.) farmers better protect the health and safety of farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone needs to feel safe and supported when they go to work. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health of all farm workers who are working hard to feed Canadians has been a top priority. With this program, British Columbia farmers will have the support they need to ensure the right measures are in place to safeguard their employees’ health and safety and limit the spread of the virus,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food.

The federal funding will be delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia (IAF).

Eligible activities include direct infrastructure improvements to living quarters and work stations, temporary or emergency housing (on or off-farm), as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary stations, work stations and any other health and safety measures that safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and temporary foreign workers from COVID-19.

Applications will be accepted through IAF’s portal from Oct. 27, 2020 to Nov. 17, 2020. Contributions under the program will be cost-shared 50:50 with the applicants, up to $100,000. An additional 10 per cent will be provided to women, youth, visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples, and Persons with disabilities, amounting to a 60:40 split as the Government of Canada promotes and empowers underrepresented groups in the agricultural sector.

The $4.9 million investment is based on an estimated 640 farmers applying, according to the government.

The IAF will deliver the program under two streams. Stream one will be available for recipients looking for reimbursements of already incurred costs whereas stream two targets recipients who are looking to undertake future projects. A flexible framework will help assess applications, considering the risk to the applicants’ workers.

“IAF is delighted to be able to respond quickly and assist AAFC deliver funding to B.C.’s agriculture industries in these challenging times,” said Don Low, chair of IAF. “We are pleased the emergency on-farm support program has been established to directly address the urgent needs of our agriculture producers that are on the front-line of food production for our province and country. IAF is committed to helping industry access funding opportunities and delivering programs effectively and responsively.”

The Emergency On-Farm Support Fund provides a $35 million investment across Canada to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19.

In August, the government announced a $58.6 million additional investment to the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program to help safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and migrant workers from COVID-19.


The federal government also launched consultations with provinces and territories, employers, workers, worker support groups, and other interested parties on a proposal to establish minimum requirements for employer-provided accommodations for the TFW program’s primary agriculture stream, and on potential approaches to strengthening oversight of worker accommodations.

The objective of the new accommodation requirements is to improve living conditions, with a focus on:

  • reduced potential for overcrowding in order to ensure:
      • adequate personal space and privacy; and
      • greater adaptability to public health measures to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases.
  • ensuring appropriate ratios of amenities;
  • ensuring appropriate heating, cooling and air quality; and
  • enabling access to phone and internet, where available.

Meanwhile, possible measures for consideration under the oversight of worker accommodations include developing a list of authorized inspectors that employers must use to conduct accommodations inspections, and requiring that housing inspection reports include new elements of proof, such as photographs and geo-location information in order to support any necessary future inspections.

The government is seeking input until Dec. 22, 2020.
In April, the government announced the $50 million Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program which provides farmers and food processors up to $1,500 per worker to help pay for the costs related to meeting the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.