2019 Federal Budget: Highlights for the Organic Sector

The 2019 Federal Budget was released last week, including some exciting announcements for the food and agriculture sector. As part of the first ever Food Policy for Canada, the budget promises to support access to healthy food, promotion of Canadian products, food security in Northern and Indigenous communities, and the reduction of food waste. Some highlights include:

Pathway to Permanent Residency for Migrant Workers

The 2019 budget announces a new three-year immigration pilot program bringing full-time non-seasonal agricultural workers into Canada, including a pathway to permanent residency. OCO was heartened to see a government recognition of labour rights in the sector.

Author, farmer and OCO member Brent Preston wrote about his experience hiring Mexican workers in his popular memoir, The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution. Preston told OCO: “We have always thought that temporary foreign workers should have a path to permanent residency. It will be important to see the details, but this sounds like a positive step.”

Anelyse Weiler, a researcher studying migrant workers in Canada, says that the majority of workers will be ineligible for the program, while those who are elibible may be incentivized to stay silent about injuries and abuse to avoid losing their chance of permanent residency: “While a pathway to permanent residency through this new pilot may be better than nothing, we should hold the Canadian government to a higher standard for upholding all farm workers’ well-being and dignity.”

Funds to Fight Food Fraud

The budget also allocates $24.4 million to enhance Canada’s capacity to fight food fraud, an initiative OCO hopes will help enhance consumer trust in the Canadian agri-food industry, particularly organics. Since 2016, OCO has been working to increase consumer confidence in Ontario organics by advocating for an Organic Products Act. The private members bill would bring greater scrutiny to products labelled “organic” within the province, and is now at committee after passing second reading. Without provincial legislation, only products leaving Ontario are subject to organic regulations. Learn more about the Act.

Other highlights for the organic sector include:

  • Local food infrastructure fund: $50 million over five years to support community-driven projects like food banks and farmers’ markets.
  • Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign: $25 million over five years to promote Canadian agricultural products.
  • Support for Processors: An additional $100 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund to support value added production.
  • Northern Isolated Communities Initiatives Fund: $15 million over five years to support community-led projects and skills training for local and Indigenous food producers.
  • National School Food Program: The Government announced its intention to work with the provinces and territories on a national breakfast and lunch program, which OCO hopes will prioritize local, organic foods.

OCO looks forward to hearing more details about the new Food Policy for Canada and how this funding can help support the organic sector. Check out the full text of the 2019 Federal Budget, with these highlights on pages 161-163.

Food Policy Figure 4.3 Budget 2019

Comments are closed.