WINDSOR, ONT. -- The federal government is spending $6.1-million to help 34 food processing companies upgrade in southwestern Ontario.

Windsor-Essex County and Chatham-Kent will receive up to $4.2 million from the Emergency Processing Fund (EPF) to help some greenhouse growers and producers upgrade safety measures needed during for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These investments are supporting their efforts to protect the health and well-being of workers so they can continue supplying good food for Canadians and people around the world,” said Neil Ellis, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The money is expected to help operations enable social distancing, purchase reusable personal protective equipment (PPE), implement biosecurity measures, install handwashing stations and protective barriers and develop employee training.

During a virtual event both Ellis and the Member of Parliament for Windsor–Tecumseh, Irek Kusmierczyk stated the sector is crucial to the provincial economy.

Kusmierczyk says he sees the money as an investment to assure greater food security, “through the projects announced today, many local businesses are adapting operations to help protect workers and maintain their ability to produce good food close to home.”

One operation, Under Sun Acers, intends to use the money for a Biosecurity Room to protect the facility against viruses and disease.

“The Emergency Processing Fund allowed this project to come to fruition and we are very thankful for the support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,” said manager Lucas Semple.

The regional recipients are:

-Leamington: Pinnacle Acres, AMCO Farms Inc., Highbury Canco Corporation, Highline Produce Limited, Lakeside Produce, Pure Hothouse Foods Inc., Via Verde Hydroponics, NatureFresh Farms Inc., OA Ridge Farms, Erieview Acres Inc.

-Chatham: Pier-C Produce Inc.

-Kingsville: Mucci Farms, Boem Berry Farms Inc., Mastronardi Produce Limited, Southshore Greenhouses Inc., Sunrite Greenhouses Ltd.

-Dresden: Conagra Brands Canada Inc.

-Windsor: Hiram Walker and Sons Ltd.

Announced in May 2020, the $77.5-million EPF has helped food processors implement measures to protect the health and safety of workers and their families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fund also supports facility upgrades to help strengthen Canada's food supply.

Agricultural Adaptation, an industry-led organization that delivers funding programs that stimulate growth and opportunity for the provincial agriculture and agri-food industry, supported the delivery of the EPF across the province for applicants with funding requests under $100,000.

The Council Chair of the organization said the money is coming at a good time.

“The Emergency Processing Fund has provided funding for greenhouse operations and food processing facilities to implement measures to address the added challenges of COVID-19 and ensure Ontario products are available for consumers,” stated Chris Hiemstra.