by SUSAN MANN
Normally corn plants in the Niagara area should reach a person’s shoulder or head by now but the crop on Vuckovic Farms is only two to four feet tall, says Henry Van Ankum, Grain Farmers of Ontario chair.
Van Ankum was on hand this morning as Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin toured the farm near West Lincoln to see drought damage first hand. Grain Farmers wanted to show the minister a crop that was suffering.
The idea of the tour was to make the minister aware of the situation and the potential that things could get worse for farmers. But Grain Farmers didn’t make any requests to the minister. Van Ankum notes some areas across Ontario have had enough rain and a decent crop is shaping up while in other areas the crop is “pretty well burnt up.” A good chunk of the crop is on the fence but needs decent rain in the next week or so.
The minister says he continues to monitor the drought situation closely. In response to a National Farmers Union – Ontario request last week for drought aid, McMeekin told the organization by letter dated July 20 it’s too early to tell the full extent of damage caused by lack of rain but “be assured that we will contact the federal government again if needed.”
The minister was referring to Ontario’s request earlier this month to the federal government to begin the formal process under AgriRecovery for aid to Ontario’s apple and tender fruit farmers whose crops were damaged by frost this spring.
As for drought, Niagara Region is one area across Ontario particularly hard hit by a lack of rain, receiving only 40 to 60 per cent of normal rainfall since April 1.
McMeekin says the crops are fairly distressed in the area he toured. “They figure they will be lucky to get 50 per cent of the normal yield here and even then only if conditions are perfect over the next few weeks.” Soybeans are doing a bit better than the corn. The rain over the weekend has helped.
There’s a real sense of optimism from farmers across Ontario that “some rain will get us through the season,” McMeekin notes after touring the farm.
Another area hard hit by drought has been Renfrew County and the minister plans to go there possibly next week.
Ontario’s agriculture minister is urging all farmers with crop insurance and who are concerned about the viability of their crop because of drought to contact Agricorp. Many of them already have, he says, noting that 72 per cent of all grain farmers have crop insurance and many more are covered under the AgriStability program, part of the group of business risk management programs in the national policy framework called Growing Forward.
Agricorp spokesperson Stephanie Charest says as of July 20, they received 1,235 damage reports due to lack of rain. That amount reflects 30 per cent, or nearly one third of the total damage reports for all this year’s crops.
For apple and tender fruit farmers in Ontario with frost damage, McMeekin says they told the federal government “the level of distress is such that AgriRecovery should kick in. The feds have to go through some due diligence now to come to the same conclusion, which we anticipate will be the case.” BF