IAF Assists Agricultural First Response Efforts

With the needs of BC’s ag sector rapidly evolving in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, IAF has spent the last few months collaborating with our industry and government partners to address the most pressing priorities of our sector.

Connecting with customers during the advent of social distancing is just one of many novel dilemmas facing our industry. But thanks to provincial funding, we are delivering $550,000 through the new Buy BC E-Commerce Fund to help local agri-businesses enhance direct-to-consumer sales, from accessing or developing e-Commerce websites to marketing and shipping products to customers throughout BC.

The funding clearly couldn’t be timelier – faced with overwhelming industry response, project funding was fully subscribed within days of the application window opening in May. Given the incredible demand and undeniable need, the Government of BC committed an additional $250,000 to the original $300,000 fund!

Following the provincial uplift, we’re now supporting more than 100 e-Commerce projects representing beef, berry, tree fruit, poultry and honey producers across the province, as well as a variety of food and beverage processors.

“The response the program received during the first round of funding was exceptional, and we needed to expand it to help more farms and businesses establish or upgrade their e-presence to reach their customers,” says BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. “Expanding online has helped companies adjust their sales model during the pandemic, and I’m very appreciative our partnership with IAF let us provide that support quickly, and when it was needed by BC farmers and businesses the most.”

We’ve also been working with BC Food and Beverage (BCFB) to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) facing food processors as a result of COVID-19. While food safety-related PPE standards remain unchanged, the surge in global demand has translated into higher premiums and minimum order requirements that exclude many smaller-scale food processors in BC.

With federal-provincial funding administered by IAF, BCFB launched the Protecting Our People Program, allowing bulk PPE ordering to ensure producers and processors can access more competitively priced supplies.

“During COVID-19, BCFB has pivoted pretty dramatically to provide support in a different way,” explains BCFB CEO, James Donaldson. “We identified the need for industry to access PPE early on and are proud to have been able to launch the Protecting Our People Program with the support of IAF.”

As of last week, we’re also thrilled to launch two new federal programs designed to enhance domestic food safety and security!

In partnership with Western Economic Diversification Canada, IAF is delivering the new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help BC fish and seafood processors address safety, capacity and market adaptability during the pandemic.

Similarly, the new Emergency Processing Fund supports food processors and greenhouse operators in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories as they balance new health and safety protocols with maintaining domestic food supply.

While the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges across all sectors, IAF chair Don Low, is optimistic about the collective efforts to restore order and accelerate recovery.

“Along with our industry and government partners, IAF immediately mobilized to help mitigate the risks unleashed by this crisis,” he says. “Thanks to substantial investments by our provincial and federal funders, we’re able to expand our program delivery role and quickly implement responsive new programming to support sector resilience in BC and beyond.”

Funding for the E-Commerce Fund provided by the BC Government’s Buy BC Partnership Program; funding for the Protecting Our People Program provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia; funding for the Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund and the Emergency Processing Fund provided by the Government of Canada.