Ontario government announces new measures to keep COVID-19 from spreading at farms
KITCHENER -- A New Hamburg farmer is applauding some of the measures in a new provincial action plan to keep COVID-19 from spreading at farms.
Jenn Pfenning, co-owner of Pfenning's Organics, says some of the actions have already been part of their operations for weeks. Those measures include daily screenings and providing culturally appropriate resource packages for their foreign workers.
Other proposals from the government are not viable for them, she said, like assigning workers from the same cohorts in living and working areas.
"The way that our teams work, depending on what we need to harvest, we might have 50 people together or we might have 10 people," Pfenning said.
Overall, she said the action plan will be a good resource for farmers and will help streamline their approach.
The province introduced the plan on Monday morning in response to a number of significant outbreaks at farms across Ontario, including a recent one at a Bayham-area farm.
That outbreak saw at least 40 cases in workers who were living in a congregate setting at an apple farm.
Housing specifically is an area of focus for the province.
"We saw that a lot of the housing that we presently have and have had for years is fine until you have a pandemic where you have to isolate people," said MPP Ernie Hardeman.
"We have to have something different. Obviously the approvals for the housing is a federal issue, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't all be collectively looking at how we can improve the housing stock."
The province is calling on the agri-food industry and government to establish a working group that will focus on the housing situation for workers.