BC expands business aid to aquaculture, seafood firms

“We will continue to look at ways to help our industry grow the high-quality local food that we depend on,” – Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture

By SeaWestNews

The latest intake of the British Columbia Agri-Business Planning Program has been expanded to include aquaculture and seafood companies in developing COVID-19 business recovery plans.

“This investment will help B.C. farmers and processors who are experiencing income loss steer the course to recovery and continue to put high-quality food on our grocery store shelves and kitchen tables for years to come,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

In a statement, the government said B.C. agriculture, seafood and food processing business owners are encouraged to apply if their revenues have decreased by at least 30% as a result of COVID-19.

The funding available includes up to $5,000 in business planning services and coaching for individuals, and up to $20,000 for groups, from a qualified business consultant, to develop an immediate and long-term recovery plan. Eligible applicants may also apply to the specialized business planning stream of the program to further strengthen their business.

“This a difficult time for all Canadians and that includes B.C. farmers, ranchers, seafood and food processors,” said Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture.

“I have been working with my federal colleague on ways to help people who are experiencing income loss through the pandemic, and the expansion of the B.C. Agri-Business Planning Program is a result of this commitment. We will continue to look at ways to help our industry grow the high-quality local food that we depend on,” she said.

The B.C. announcement comes a day after Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced up to $469.4 million in new measures to support Canada’s fish harvesters, who are economically impacted by the pandemic but cannot access existing federal measures.

This is in addition to the $62.5 million aid package announced last month to help the wild and farmed fisheries sectors and the seafood production industry to ensure the collective food security of the nation.

“Canada’s fish and seafood harvesters are the driving economic force behind many coastal and rural communities,” said Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

“While hardship and uncertainty are felt across the economy, the fishing sector faces unique challenges that require direct solutions. With this announcement, we are ensuring that Canada’s hardworking fish harvesters get the support they need now and into the future,” she said.

Paul Lansbergen, President, Fisheries Council of Canada described the federal funding as “a step in the right direction towards assisting our frontline workers as we support the Canadian food supply chain”

“The challenges faced by the fish and seafood industry during COVID-19 pandemic are unique and complex, and it is critical that the government continue to work with industry to determine effective solutions to remaining hurdles. We look forward to continued dialogue with authorities as we represent our members through this crisis,” he told SeaWestNews via an emailed response.

Under the new program announced by Trudeau last Thursday, the Government of Canada will:

  • Launch the Fish Harvester Benefit, a program worth up to $267.6 million, to help provide income support for this year’s fishing seasons to eligible self-employed fish harvesters and sharespersons crew who cannot access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Support will be provided to those that experience fishing income declines of greater than 25 per cent in the 2020 tax year, compared with a reference period to be identified. This measure covers 75 per cent of fishing income losses beyond a 25 per cent income decline threshold, up to a maximum individual entitlement equivalent to what is provided under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy ($847 per week for up to 12 weeks).
  • Launch the Fish Harvester Grant, a program worth up to $201.8 million, to provide grants to help fish harvesters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Business Account or equivalent measures. This will give them more liquidity to address non-deferrable business costs. The program would provide non-repayable support of up to $10,000 to self-employed fish harvesters with a valid fishing licence. Size of the non-repayable support will vary depending on the level of fish harvesters’ historic revenue.
  • Propose measures or changes to Employment Insurance (EI) that would allow self-employed fish harvesters and ‘sharespersons’ to access EI benefits on the basis of insurable earnings from previous seasons (winter and summer claims).

Information and application details for the expanded B.C. Agri-Business Planning Program to include aquaculture and seafood companies is available   here.  

(Image courtesy of BC Govt. shows Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture at a Buy BC promotional event)