November 4, 2020 by Thomas Blonde

Introducing the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund

Margins are relatively tight in the farming industry and some farmers do not have the financial wherewithal to fully protect their employees from COVID-19. This is a major concern, as farm workers often find themselves living in close quarters, which makes social distancing extremely difficult. Fortunately, if you have a farm business and you’re worried about the cost of promoting social distancing and other safety measures during the pandemic, you have access to a valuable new funding opportunity: the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund. This program puts farmers in a better position to increase the safety of their employees, and your Baker Tilly farm advisor can help you navigate the application process for this and other COVID-19 relief programs. In the meantime, here is a closer look at the fund, the activities that qualify and the amount of support available.

Is your business eligible?

There is only one stipulation to qualify for this fund: your business must be a primary production agricultural producer. This includes farms, ranches and other similar operations, but excludes processing facilities such as slaughterhouses, as programs were introduced to assist them – so they could install equipment to allow social distancing among their employees – earlier in the year. At that time, no assistance was announced for primary production agriculture. The new Emergency On-Farm Support Fund now aims to address this, supporting any type of business structure used for primary production, regardless of the number of employees involved.

What costs are covered?

This fund covers costs associated with adapting existing structures to keep workers protected from COVID-19. For example, investments to expand your workspace for social distancing purposes would qualify. This also applies to housing, as many farms bring in workers from other countries on a seasonal basis and provide lodging. These accommodations are often not conducive to social distancing, with for instance, five or more people sharing a trailer or a small house. There have already been outbreaks in some parts of Ontario as a result of these living situations, but the Emergency On-Farm Support Fund helps farmers expand their temporary housing arrangements by purchasing additional trailers or renovating existing housing to provide more space for employees.

If you were initially reluctant to invest in the most up-to-date equipment or provide temperature sensors to screen employees, you no longer have an excuse, as these expenses are also covered. In addition, the fund provides support to farm businesses that pay to transport employees to their work sites, allowing for safe distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and sanitizers. PPE is a smaller investment, but it is a significant cost farmers are incurring to keep their employees safe.

Collecting on past investments

While some farmers may worry they stand to benefit little from this program, as they have already made significant investments in these areas, there’s good news: this funding is retroactive. You can be reimbursed for expenses going all the way back to March when the pandemic started impacting Canadian businesses. This applies to investments in building renovations, transportation, personal protective equipment, training and more.

How much funding is available?

This fund is structured as a cost-share program, with the government willing to share half the cost of any qualifying expenses up to $100,000. In other words, if you spend $200,000 on eligible expenses, you would get $100,000 back. However, there is a separate limit related to PPE, with payments from the fund capped at $10,000. For all other eligible expenses, only the overall funding limit of $100,000 applies.

Meet the Author

Thomas Blonde Thomas Blonde
Elora, Ontario
D (519) 846-5315 ext. 319
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