Charlebois: Too often overlooked, farmers need help now

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We always needed farmers. Now, with COVID-19, they need us.

Farming needs helps, real help, right now. Much of the attention was given to the foreign workers program in recent weeks. Ottawa and provinces have done the best they could to mitigate the situation. But that was just the beginning. For farmers, the worst is yet to come.

Livestock is good place to start. To date, over seven meat processing plants had to be shut down in the country due to at least one employee contracting COVID-19. And more are expected. In some cases, plants had to be idle for 14 days for a thorough disinfection. Closures can be quite disruptive to the entire supply chain. But the ones being affected the most are the farmers.

Recently, Bloomberg reported that thousands of pigs have been euthanized over the past few weeks, and more are likely to suffer the same fate. Some reports suggest more than 90,000 pigs are likely to be disposed of by farmers, with no other option. Just awful. Shutdowns and slowdowns at several processing plants have created unmanageable backlogs. In hog production, there is little or no wiggle room. When an animal is ready to be harvested, it needs to go, or else, costs go up. Or worse, the quality of the product can be severally compromised, and the animal could potentially not comply to market specifications that are heavily imposed by processors and grocers.