Thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee on behalf of the Canadian Horticultural Council, representing the growers of over $5.7 billion in farm cash receipts for produce annually.
Canada's agriculture industry is primed for immense growth, as identified by the advisory committee on economic growth in 2017 and reinforced in the 2018 report of the agri-food economic strategy table, which set ambitious growth targets for our sector.
Navigating an unstable and unpredictable business investment climate as well as trying to manage risk beyond our control, such as pests, weather and disease, makes it increasingly difficult for us to sustain our family farms, let alone expand them. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have shown the cracks in the current ineffective business risk management tools and have greatly compounded risks to our growers.
Despite following the necessary health and safety and quarantine requirements, there have been a number of outbreaks of COVID-19 on fruit and vegetable farms. Our first concern in these instances is the health and safety of everyone involved, especially workers and growers. From the perspective of a farm's capacity to produce food, the consequences of an outbreak can be devastating due to the impacts on the farm's ability to perform essential activities like planting, maintaining plant life, harvesting crops and packaging produce.
In the event of an outbreak, workers must isolate, and crop maintenance, harvesting and packing cannot occur, leaving essential work undone, causing product and crop loss that cannot be recovered. An ad hoc safety net program should be considered to see farmers through these extraordinarily difficult circumstances when a farm is in need.
The federal government has signalled to the provinces that labour shortages can be deemed an eligible risk for the horticultural sector under the AgriInsurance program. Unfortunately, we have not seen an uptake across the provinces, and there are a number of commodities, such as greenhouse vegetables and berries in some provinces, that cannot access crop insurance, so this announcement does not go far enough to addressing the need.
CHC requests that the government work with industry to ensure that BRM programming is diverse enough to include the various regions, crops, schedules and farm sizes. It must also provide the stability farmers need to grow, maintain, harvest and pack this important part of Canada's food supply, both this year and for years to come.
For many farmers of edible horticultural products, their season is at the mercy of unpredictable and sometimes downright brutal weather. Climate change will continue to exacerbate this, and pest and disease infestation can wipe out entire crops. In recent years, growers have experienced increasing market and trade risks due to trade disruptions and non-tariff barriers in many key markets. There were more extreme climate-related events, such as last year's floods, hurricane winds, heavy rains, early snowfall and frost across Canada.
Costs have increased rapidly, while farm receipts stagnate.
I'll hand it over to you, Brian.