The provincial government has allocated $200,000 to the PEI Hog Board to help ship seven truckloads of hogs to market after the processing plant in Quebec that normally handles the animals was shut down due to COVID-19.
"The hog board reached out to us," Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson said during discussion on the province's COVID-19 response plan recently in the legislature.
Thompson said the industry was in a "critical situation" and if markets were not found , the animals would have been euthanized. Hog producers in several other provinces have been forced to destroy animals after processing plants were closed or scaled back production due to outbreaks of COVID-19.
Opposition Agriculture and Land Critic Michele Beaton wanted to know how the allocation was arrived at, asking Thompson what the board had requested. The minister replied "They didn’t ask for anything; we offered them $200,000 hoping it would cover, and it did cover, their immediate needs. "
Beaton also wanted to know if there were other producers or commodity groups that requested help, noting the case of a farmer who had 2.5 million pounds of cabbage in a warehouse and "we saw just how much Islanders can come together when a local farmer needs support. We saw Facebook pages opening up of the love of recipes for cabbage and we saw a lot of support around them. Was there any other sectors that were told that if they need help, they could apply through a certain process to get help? "
The minister replied his department is having regular conversations with the PEI Federation of Agriculture to tell people to reach out and "we talked to every commodity group during that time." Thompson said he was aware of the producer with excess cabbage and his department did purchase some and donated it to the school food program.
The opposition critic said she has heard from a tree farmer looking to access COVID-19 funding. Thompson indicated the tree grower did not reach out to him "but I assume if they're a member of the federation, which 90% of families are, that would be their approach. We did contact every commodity group on a regular basis to make sure everything was going."
Thompson noted there is still the strategic agriculture fund of $750,000 that hasn't had a huge uptake yet. He explained "Any commodity group or small processor should be reaching out to that and access up to $50,000. It’s a great program."