By Mike Anderson
York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson was named 2022 Produce Champion by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA).
The presentation was held on August 9 at Gwillimdale Farms in Bradford West Gwillimbury, with local mayors and MPs in attendance.
Davidson was recognized for introducing Bill C-280, the Financial Protection for Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Farmers Act, which had its first reading on June 8 in the House of Commons.
If passed, Bill C-280 would establish a deemed trust mechanism for fresh produce growers and sellers, ensuring they get paid for their crops if their buyer declares bankruptcy.
According to CPMA, the annual award is given to a Member of Parliament or Senator who has supported the produce industry and effectively brought agricultural issues to the forefront on Parliament Hill.
“Since his election in 2019, Scot Davidson has shown tremendous leadership for the Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable industry, particularly as a strong representative for growers in the Holland Marsh area,” said CPMA President Ron Lemaire in a press release.
“That support has benefitted the entire industry, and we are truly grateful for his engagement and advocacy on a range of issues, and most especially for his work to establish a financial protection mechanism for produce sellers, a significant focus for our members for many years.”
Local growers like Gwillimdale Farms, who grow, pack and ship fresh vegetables to major supermarket chains, support Bill C-280 and hope it becomes law in Canada.
“We have no current legislation that allows us protections under the bankruptcy and solvency act. The reason is that most of our products are consumed, transformed or disposed of by the time those protections kick in. So there’s nothing for us to go back and grab,” Quinton Woods, manager of sales and plant operations at Gwillimdale Farms, told the Post.
“This Bill would allow us to sell our products within a trust. So we would have access to the cash and receivables from those goods being sold.”
“Big suppliers have big customers. A lot of the growing operations across Canada are leveraged up to 20 to 30 per cent with a single customer. If they went bankrupt, many operations would be in trouble.”
“It’s not like we sell washing machines or something like that. It’s perishable. And so we need to protect growers and sellers within our bankruptcy protection framework,” added Lemaire.
“As we move forward, we need this financial protection because it not only creates stability for the selling community but also for borrowing and lending. Our growers will be stronger companies moving forward, and their ability to borrow and develop capital is key in that whole process.”
Davidson is hopeful that Bill C-280 will eventually pass, but he acknowledges it will need support across party lines.
“I’m going to lean on everyone I can to get the support,” he said.
“I pride myself on being able to work across party lines for things that make sense to Canadians. This is something that makes sense to Canadian farmers. Because it’s about food security, improving an industry and trying to drive Canada to be number one in agriculture.”
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