MPP Wayne Gates
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report
COVID-19 has shaken our entire country to its core. However, it's during this time that we've seen our community rally together to take care of one another. Nowhere has that been more evident than when it comes to agriculture.
Every single time that we go to our grocery store or buy any vital supplies, it’s our local farmers we have to thank. Farmers and growers from across the province and right here in Niagara have continued to plan and work to ensure that our shelves don't run bare during this horrible crisis.
A recent survey indicated that 86.9% of our agricultural employers here in Niagara said the pandemic had affected their operations, with 78.9% of respondents saying they had already lost revenue because of the virus. Simply put, the government must act more decisively to support our local farmers. No farmer should fear bankruptcy during these trying times, but action must be taken quickly to ensure their operations not only survive but thrive. Bottlenecks in our agricultural supply line can only mean two things — that our essential supplies become more scarce, or that Canada is forced to buy foreign agricultural products at an increased price. Both of these responses cannot occur during this pandemic.
As farmers work tirelessly to feed and care for us when we need their supplies most, the Government must do the same for them. They must ensure that they have access to safe and healthy staff who can assist in the production of their products. They must know that their products can be transported and processed in a quick manner without delay. Like others suffering during this pandemic, credit must be made available at low-interest or preferably no interest and joined with lowered utility bills to offset losses during these painful times.
Before the pandemic hit, there was a popular slogan in Ontario — Farmers Feed Cities. This was true but I want to remind the province loud and clear that Farmers Still Feed Cities as the rest of us do our best to isolate. For every piece of fruit, fresh vegetable, or bottle of wine you sit down to enjoy with your family–you can thank a farmer. Farmers and our agricultural workers are every bit as heroic, courageous and vital as our fellow frontline workers. During this crisis that must be recognized, and when this crisis is over that cannot be forgotten.
Wayne Gates is the member of provincial parliament for the Niagara Falls riding.