Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp wants to ensure farmers don’t have to put up with any last-minute COVID-19 regulatory curve balls next year.
Chopp is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford to provide clarity with respect to COVID-19 requirements as well as a consolidated regulatory framework and financial support for farmers ahead of the next growing season.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t get something concrete for these farmers moving into the next growing season that come March, the province or federal government could say something like ‘hey Norfolk County too bad, you’re not allowed bunkbeds (for migrant farm workers),” Chopp said at a Haldimand-Norfolk board of health meeting on Oct. 27. “We’re not going to like that and wouldn’t we rather know that now rather than three months from now?”
Chopp wrote the letter with the support of Scott Biddle of Scotlynn Group, Ken Wall of Sandy Shore Farm and Paul Procyk of Procyk Farms – the owners of three of the biggest farm operations in Norfolk. Combined the three operations employ one-third of the county’s migrant work force and produce more than 172,500 tonnes of fresh produce annually.
In her letter, Chopp said public safety measures imposed by H-N Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai early in the pandemic were opposed by many in the farming community and created divisions. The community is trying to move forward and recognizes that new regulations could be coming as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our community is looking to heal, move forward and continue to support food security, not only for the province but for all of Canada,” Chopp said in her letter. “We are desperately seeking some additional support from both levels of government.
“Your support will ensure that all farm workers can arrive safely in 2021 and beyond, our farmers’ operations are not threatened and Canadians can continue to have safe and healthy local fruits and vegetables on their plates.”
The health board voted unanimously to support Chopp’s letter.