by SUSAN MANN
Ontario Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin has requested the federal government start the process to provide disaster relief for livestock and other farmers affected by dry weather.
Mark Cripps, McMeekin’s press secretary, says the formal request, sent by letter Monday, “triggers an assessment process to determine if additional financial support should be made available.”
The financial assistance would be part of the AgriRecovery program, one of the business risk management programs in Growing Forward, the country’s agricultural policy framework. It would be in addition to any payments farmers get as part of crop insurance, AgriStability or any other government programs. The federal government provides 60 per cent of the funding for AgriRecovery, while the province kicks in the other 40 per cent.
The process would be to determine if there’s “anything else we could possible do aside from the current suite of programs that are currently available to address what we’re seeing today, which is a very difficult situation,” Cripps says.
McMeekin was at two farms in eastern Ontario Tuesday, one in Renfrew County and one in North Gower, along with several farm leaders and municipal officials to see the drought damage first hand. Last week McMeekin toured a farm in Niagara Region. Cripps says the minister was adamant that he wanted to tour drought-stricken areas in eastern Ontario. “He made no bones about the fact that he wanted to be out here.”
Cripps says the corn they saw on Tuesday was “barely a foot off the ground and there’s whole fields where there’s not a single cob.”
Livestock farmers are particularly in need of help because pastures are dried up and yields are down in hay fields with farmers having to start feeding their stored winter feed now.
The minister also requested the federal government accelerate the identification of prescribed drought regions and that gives livestock farmers opportunities to receive more favourable tax treatment, Cripps says. Prescribed drought region identification is usually done in late September.
For farmers deciding to cull their herd because a shortage of feed, they can defer some of that revenue to a different tax year “so they don’t take the tax hit on it this year,” he says. The identification of the drought regions also means farmers coverage under AgriStability is also preserved.
Last week, the minister said it was too early to say if the drought situation in Ontario is a disaster, but Cripps says there’s a lot of stress out there and the minister thought it was important to start the assessments for AgriRecovery now. BF