Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, on behalf of Farm Credit Canada (FCC), announced May 14 the launch of a $100-million Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund to support proven, viable companies through unexpected business disruptions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Launched in partnership with Forage Capital Inc. – a Calgary-based venture capital firm – the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund is set up to provide companies with the financial stability and flexibility they need to rebuild their business models during challenging times. FCC is the sole investor in the fund.
The fund is set up to support a wide range of enterprises in the agribusiness and agri-food sector, including companies involved in primary production, agri-tech, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. The fund will help companies in times of need through innovative solutions such as convertible debt investments and other flexible financing solutions. Applications will be assessed individually on their merit, and will be supported to a maximum of $10 million.
The primary goal of the Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund is to return recipient companies to a sound financial footing. To qualify, companies need to demonstrate an impact from an unexpected business disruption, such as the loss of a key supplier, temporary loss of a facility or permanent loss of critical staff or leadership. Funds cannot be used to repay shareholder loans or purchase shareholder equity positions.
The May 14 announcement complements the Minister’s announcement on March 23, 2020 to enhance FCC’s lending capacity by an additional $5 billion to help producers and agri-food businesses with access to cash flow to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that announcement, more than 4,800 producers and agri-food businesses have used payment deferral options on FCC loans totalling $4 billion and have established credit lines totaling more than $500 million to alleviate short-term cash flow concerns.
•The May 14 announcement is part of a broad suite of actions the Government of Canada has taken to support agricultural and food processing businesses to help ensure Canadians continue to have access to affordable and healthy food. These initiatives include:
◦Creating a $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment (PPE), adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations, and respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19 so they can better supply Canadians with food during this period;
◦Launching national AgriRecovery initiatives of up to $125 million in funding to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19;
◦Launching a first-ever Surplus Food Purchase Program with an initial $50 million fund designed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories;
◦Investing $62.5 million for a new Canadian Seafood Stabilization Fund to help Canada’s fish and seafood processing sector;
◦Launching a Business Credit Availability Program to provide $65 billion of additional support through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada;
◦Creating the Canada Emergency Business Account to provide up to $25 billion to eligible financial institutions so they can provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits, to help cover their operating costs during a period where their revenues have been temporarily reduced;
◦Deferring income tax payment for all Canadian businesses, including agribusinesses, until after August 31, 2020;
◦Deferring Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) payments until June, as well as customs duties owed for imports for businesses, including self-employed individuals;
◦Extending loan deadlines for all farmers with outstanding loans under the Advance Payments Program;
◦Extending the enrollment deadline from April 30, 2020 to July 3, 2020 AgriStability
•The Government has announced it will work with provinces and territories through a new temporary top up to the salaries of low-income essential workers, including agriculture and agri-food employees, who make less than $2,500 a month, as well as the expansion of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB. This includes seasonal workers in agriculture and agri-food.
•The Government of Canada is investing $50 million to help employers of temporary foreign workers put in place the measures necessary to follow the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad. This investment will provide $1,500 to eligible employers for each temporary foreign worker. In April, sector partners, in close collaboration with the federal government, successfully brought in over 80 per cent of the normal amount of Temporary Foreign Workers to Canada, compared to the previous year.
•In addition, all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan. This measure represents $173 million in deferred loans.
•Farm Credit Canada is our country’s leading agriculture and food lender, with a healthy loan portfolio of more than $38 billion. The Crown corporation provides flexible, competitively priced financing, management software, information, and knowledge specifically designed for the agriculture and food industries.