The Beef Farmers of Ontario has made recommendations to the province to improve the predator compensation program but with a change of government at Queen’s Park this summer, some improvements will not happen until the new year, said BFO manager of policy and issues Richard Horne.
Horne acknowledged that some farmers are annoyed by the delay in changes to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. “I understand frustrations from producers who are unhappy with the current predation program,” he said. “That’s fair but we are making good progress. We do have a commitment by OMAFRA to work on the program.”
Everything is on hold until stakeholders meet with the new government, he said. “This has not dropped off as a priority for BFO.”
The BFO received a summary from a focus group on the compensation program and the beef farmers for the most part agree with the 29 suggestions, he said.
The BFO has three “immediate” changes it would like to see:
Broaden the standard of proof:
“The current standard of proof is too rigidly applied,” Horne said. The problem with photo evidence is that weather or heavy rain or snowfall overnight can mask key pieces of evidence, such as blood and pasture conditions, Horne said. “Heat can also mask blood.”
Rough ground can also mask a struggle. There might also not be any trampled vegetation to reveal a struggle for the reason that a newborn might not put up much of a fight. “This would limit evidence at the site.”
Hand the appeals process to an independent body:
As it stands, a single person in the same building in OMAFRA handles all appeals. “We have recommended that a separate, independent appeals adjudication committee should be set up that includes relevant experts on predation,” Horne said. To restore trust in the program, the appeals committee could include a wildlife biologist, a predator specialist, a livestock specialist, a livestock producer or a livestock investigator, he said.
“We are open to the makeup of that committee. But the appeals process is not sufficiently separated from OMAFRA and its one single person doing the appeals.”
Change the price structure for predator loss:
The current system uses the Ontario average price for the class of animal. “There should be an opportunity for producers who consistently beat the Ontario market average to prove that their livestock are worth more through sales records, through information on their herd,” he said. “Do they vaccinate, de-horn. Are they a niche premium beef brand?”
The BFO also wants to see an increase in the predation compensation for a newborn calf to increase from 70 per cent of the value of a 500 lb. weaned animal. “We’d like to see the trigger point start at 85 per cent.”