Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, members of the committee. I'm pleased to be here today.
I want to thank the committee once again for your hard work and your ongoing commitment to the agriculture sector.
I appreciate the opportunity to join you today as we look at the supplementary estimates for 2020-21 and to highlight the support that our government has put in place to respond so our farmers and processors have the support they need during this challenging time. These supplementary measures bring Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's 2020-21 authorities to date to approximately $2.8 billion.
COVID-19 caused a sudden shock to our food system. I care deeply for our producers and food business owners and workers, who are facing the struggles caused by this pandemic. I think particularly about our young producers and the stress this unprecedented situation has caused for them and their families. We recognize the challenges of the backlog and volatile prices faced by livestock producers, the labour challenges faced by our fruit and vegetable growers, and the loss of markets owing to restaurant closures.
There have been positive signals in the sector as well. The demand for and export of grains, oilseeds and pulses has increased. We are having record months for the movement of grain by rail. Our slaughter capacity is normalizing and helping to clear the backlog.
Since the pandemic began, our government continues to roll out supports as fast as possible. For our farm families and processors, this support represents over $1.25 billion.
First, our government created the Canada emergency business account, which could deliver over $2.6 billion in interest-free loans to 67,000 eligible farmers across the country. By providing access to $10,000 in loan forgiveness on a $40,000 interest-free loan, we are providing more than $670 million in direct support to Canadian farm families.
To help farmers manage their cash flow, we immediately deferred payments on $173 million through the advance payments program, and we increased the lending capacity of Farm Credit Canada by $5 billion. More than $4 billion of that has already helped farmers.
I know access to workers continues to be a challenge in the country, but we continue to have a significant number of temporary foreign workers arrive every week. We estimate that, so far, 80% of workers have arrived as compared with the same period last year, but there is still much to do.
We are pleased that employers are making use of our $50-million program to support them with the costs they assumed to ensure foreign workers were safe during the mandatory quarantine period. I know we are all deeply saddened to hear about the recent passing of two temporary foreign workers in Ontario, as well as the many others who have fallen sick. Our top priority is to keep workers safe, and we will continue to work together with employers and local public health authorities.
Included in the supplementary estimates, the $77.5-million emergency processing fund will also help food processors adjust their operations to keep their workers safe and boost Canadian food production by modernizing their facilities or reopening plants, for instance.
We increased the funding to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by $20 million to ensure continued inspection services to keep our food safe for Canadians and our export markets.
To get more young Canadians working in the sector, we announced $9.2 million under the youth employment and skills strategy program, which will fund up to 700 new positions for youth in the agriculture industry.
We also made improvements to the business risk management programs available to producers. Yes, there is more to be done to improve these programs, but one of my messages to farmers continues to be that these are important tools, and please make use of them. Usually these programs provide $1.6 billion a year in direct support to our producers. This year it could be over $2.2 billion, including potentially doubling the paying out for AgriStability.
Most provinces have now signed up to increase the interim AgriStability payment to 75%. In Alberta, for example, the province estimates that this could result in $20 per head for pork producers.
We have extended the enrolment period for AgriStability to July 3, and we encourage producers to apply.
Canadian agricultural producers have almost $2.3 billion in their AgriInvest accounts, self-managed producer-government savings accounts designed to help producers manage small income declines and make investments to manage risks and improve market income. The average producer has close to $25,000. Horticulture producers have an average of about $25,000. For grain and oilseed producers, it's $33,000, and for potato producers, it's $93,000.
We also took leadership in announcing our commitment to the AgriRecovery initiative, committing the entire $125 million and changing the program so that producers will benefit from the federal assistance whether the provinces choose to participate or not. It's encouraging to see that some provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, made announcements of their contributions to AgriRecovery. Indeed, our partnerships with the provinces and territories have become even stronger during the pandemic. We've met weekly and are partnering on meat inspections, business risk management programs and much more.
Lastly, we have really taken the challenges of Canadians' food security to heart. Since the pandemic hit, we have given $100 million to support our national food bank and food networks. The supplementary estimates include $75 million to help food aid organizations serve vulnerable Canadians during the crisis. I'll give you an example. Thanks to $170,000 in federal funding, the Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor, Ontario, has been giving out emergency food hampers to families in need. Yesterday, we launched a second call for proposals under the local food infrastructure fund to help local food organizations invest in larger projects up to $250,000.
This second application intake will build on the success of our first round of projects, which have helped communities across Canada. Lastly, the estimates include $50 million to help local food organizations access local surplus food to serve vulnerable Canadians. We have made good progress, but there's much more to be done.
Mr. Chair, I know that our agriculture and agri-food sector will be a key driver of leading the economic recovery of our nation and will continue supporting the prosperity of our rural communities and our national economy.