A joint effort between the federal and provincial governments has triggered the development of a program to help growers establish higher standards of food safety and traceability, through the Food Safety and Traceability Initiative. This program is part of Growing Forward, and allocates a certain amount of money to provide to growers on a yearly basis, over five years. The program reimburses successful applicants 75 percent of their eligible expenses to a maximum of $20,000, which covers projects such as implementing a written food safety program, implementing a working traceability system, as well as purchasing equipment that would improve food safety and traceability and hiring staff to increase the adoption of the programs and systems. (http://www.betterfarming.com/online-news/food-safety-program-tapped-out-2291)
The current issue is that as of July 17th 2009, the provincial government stopped accepting applications for funding. This has left some growers with questions of whether they will be able to improve their food safety standards on farm, or if they have to wait another year. Some growers are pleading the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to increase funding in the first year to allow more growers to take part in the program.
This is not the right move for the first year of the program. If the program is to last 5 years, then the government should stick to their current yearly allotment of funds so that over the 5 years, many growers can benefit from the funding. This is assuming that some sort of screening is done in year two of the program so that growers do not receive funding two years in a row. We don’t want only some growers having high food safety and traceability standards while other growers may struggle to meet minimum standards to even sell their harvest, especially when there is a lot of publicity recently to buy local.