Ministry of Agriculture's Response to COVID-19

The Ministry of Agriculture is proactively responding to COVID-19.

Last updated: August 20, 2020

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BC’s Restart Plan – Agriculture & Seafood Sector

As part of Restart BC, sectors and businesses including agriculture and seafood are encouraged to make plans and establish protocols on how they can operate safely in line with public health and safety guidelines.

WorkSafeBC and the Ministry of Agriculture will work with industry associations to ensure the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO). Individual businesses will need to ensure their own plans align with these sectoral plans. 

Questions about making an exposure plan can be directed to WorkSafe BC at 1-888-621-SAFE.


PHO Orders & Guidance – Agriculture and Seafood Sector

The Public Health Office (PHO) continues to update orders, notices and guidance.

PHO Order for Industrial Camps – July 2, 2020 (PDF, 311KB)

The order applies to:

  • All employers in the agricultural, aquaculture, forestry and resource sectors
  • All people appointed as Infection Prevention and Control Coordinators by employers
  • All workers in the agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and resource sectors

Employers in the agriculture and seafood sector that provide accommodation for workers must develop a COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) protocol and receive a site inspection

PHO Order for Vending Merchandise at Markets – May 28, 2020 (PDF, 234 KB)

  • This order repeals and replaces the PHO oral order of March 27, 2020 and the written order of April 15, 2020 with respect to markets
  • This order applies to vendors at and market managers of episodic vending markets (also known as “Farmers Markets” or “Community Markets”)
  • The order enables vendors to sell food in single use, closed, takeout containers
  • The order enables vendors to sell alcohol in sealed retail containers, such as bottles, cartons, boxes and cans
  • The order continues to prohibit food and beverage sampling and lists other requirements that markets and market managers must follow

 


Agriculture as an Essential Service

The B.C. farming, ranching and food processing sectors are resilient by nature. The B.C. government is there to support them, declaring agriculture, fishing, food processing and businesses that support the food supply chain as essential services


Labour

British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) guidance on Protecting Industrial Camp Workers, Contractors, and Employers Working in the Agricultural, Forestry, and Natural Resource Sectors During the COVID-19 Pandemic (PDF, 653KB)

Seasonal fruit pickers are a crucial part of the B.C. food supply system. The B.C. government is working with a number of municipalities in the Okanagan and Kootenays to provide safe places for pickers to camp during the harvesting season. 

Seasonal workers are required to complete COVID-19 awareness training and show a certification of completion to be able to stay at these campsites.

An AgSafe BC course is available online in English and French. The course includes information on physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, work pods, transportation, tools and equipment, safeguarding community and First Nations health and monitoring employee health.

Register for the course

The B.C. Domestic Temporary Farm Workers COVID-19 PPE Supports Program is a cost-shared initiative that supports farmers and growers housing Domestic Temporary Farm Workers (DTFW) on-farm in temporary structures such as trailers, campers and tents. The program will reimburse up to 70% of costs for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to a maximum of $1,000 per organization within eligible guidelines.

The new B.C. Farm, Fish and Food Job Connector showcases the current job vacancies throughout the province, including those for:

  • Crop and seafood harvesters
  • Food processing and farmworkers
  • Agrologists
  • Large machinery operators
  • Marketing specialists

The website also has sector specific information and guidance to support businesses as they adapt their recruitment and human resource management in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find or post job opportunities in more than 30 communities in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island as well as in the Kootenays, Cariboo and Northern B.C.

All temporary foreign workers arriving in B.C. for seasonal farm work are required to self-isolate in government-managed accommodations for 14 days before being transported to their farm.

Host farm operators must ensure a safe workplace and demonstrate a proof of an infection control plan with the Ministry of Agriculture.

  • Farm operators that employ temporary foreign workers must apply for permission from the Province to receive temporary foreign workers and protect workers

Review the self-isolation rules and apply to receive temporary foreign workers.

AgSafe BC has developed templates to assist agricultural employers in building their Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Program during COVID-19. Employers are encouraged to customize these documents to fit their individual operation’s needs when building or enhancing their OHS Program.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council have created a dedicated webpage with the latest information, recommendations, employee management tips, and tools. These will help you respond to the pandemic and limit the impact and spread of COVID-19 within your business. Up to date information on temporary foreign workers and best practices for labour during times of disruption is also available. 

 


Business Resources

The B.C. Agri-Business Planning Program supports producers and food processors through two streams:

  • COVID-19 Business Recovery Planning helps B.C. producers and processors develop and implement an immediate and long-term recovery plan
  • Specialized Business Planning helps B.C. producers and processors make informed decisions and strengthen their business

Governments and the private sector are providing a wide-range of supports for businesses in British Columbia affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of B.C.’s COVID-19 Action Plan, the B.C. government is providing an additional $5 billion in income supports, tax relief and funding for people, businesses and services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service is operated by Small Business BC (SBBC) and is a one-stop resource for businesses that have questions about the supports available from the provincial and federal governments, industry and community partners.

SBBC advisors are available Monday to Friday (8 am to 6 pm) and Saturday (9 am to 5 pm) via:

Support is available in several languages.

The Governments of Canada and British Columbia provide a number of programs to help protect B.C. farmers’ and ranchers’ incomes.

  • AgriStability provides support when producers experience a large margin decline
  • AgriInvest provides cash flow to help producers manage income declines
  • Production Insurance provides cost-shared insurance against natural hazards to reduce the financial impact of production or asset losses. The Western Livestock Price Insurance program will continue to play an important role in protecting incomes

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the Canadian agricultural industry and is taking the necessary steps to ensure that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open.

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has resources on keeping pets and livestock safeTo date, there have not been any reports of livestock being infected by COVID-19 anywhere. However, livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures as always. This includes limiting visitors or workers who may have travelled to, or been in contact with, someone from an affected area.

If you are wondering how you can support your favourite farms, food producers and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the choice is simple, you can still Buy BC!

 


Food Safety & Good Agriculture Practices

The BC Food and Beverage Protecting our People Program online ordering for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is now open. The program offers a central resource and procurement solution for PPE supplies (masks and gloves).

The BC Post-Farm Food Safety Program and the BC On-Farm Food Safety Program now permits PPE as an eligible expense for processor and farmer participants.

Following Good Agricultural Practices help assess and minimize on-farm food safety risks, and can be used to develop a customized program for individual farms. A whole-farm approach covering all aspects of food safety of crop and livestock production is important at any time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in questions specific to the response.

 


Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are designated as an essential food and agriculture service provider

All BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) markets currently operating in B.C. have put the following protocols in place to help ensure the health and safety of vendors, organizers and customers.

In addition to the continuing physical markets, BCAFM is helping member markets move to an online model to continue providing consumers with locally grown and prepared food products. Online farmers markets will also enable vendor-direct-to-consumer delivery at some markets.


Looking After Yourself

The COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time for all of us and we need to look after each other and ourselves.


Resources for Home-Gardeners

Information for home and community gardeners is now available in a new resource (PDF, 708 KB), along with other crop production guides covering a wide variety of crops grown in B.C.