GUELPH – Farm organizations are applauding Ontario government’s quick financial help for farmers in the drought-stricken Rainy River and Kenora districts.
The province is spending up to $2 million on emergency measures for feed, water and basic livestock needs because of the situation in the region, as announced July 27 by Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Lisa Thompson. A substantial share of those funds — up to $800,000 — will flow through the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) to help deal with immediate feed shortages on behalf of all affected farmers in the region.
While a number of areas in Ontario have been dealing with dry conditions, farmers in Rainy River and Kenora have been plagued by late frosts, persistent heat and lack of rain throughout this year’s growing season, decimating their pastures and hay crops.
They are currently making difficult herd inventory decisions, BFO points out, which will have a long-term impact on the infrastructure supporting the regions’ livestock sector.
“Over the last several weeks we have been assessing the situation and meeting with government to discuss potential assistance for farmers in drought-stricken regions of the province. We’ve also been hearing many heart-wrenching stories from our members in the Rainy River and Kenora Districts of the devastating impact the extreme weather conditions have been having on their crops, cattle and mental health,” says Rob Lipsett, BFO President.
“BFO is prepared to do what we need to do to administer immediate relief for our farmers who are in desperate need of feed to ensure their animals are well cared for during such a trying time.”
“We sincerely appreciate and respect the swift action of the Ontario government to respond to the request of the region and provide necessary support to farmers in crisis,” says Peggy Brekveld, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) President. “This is a relief for farmers in the area, not only for their businesses, but for their mental health too, giving them peace of mind that help is on the way.”
Farmers expressed serious concerns and illustrated the severity of the crisis during an industry roundtable last week hosted by OFA, BFO and Grain Farmers of Ontario. It evolved into an emergency situation caused by crops burning off, pastures drying out, and in some cases, minimal access to water resulting in immediate sell-off of livestock.
OFA says it was pleased to hear Minister Rickford confirm that farmers facing similar circumstances in nearby regions may be considered for support.
Ontario’s short-term funding measures are seen an important stop-gap as the province awaits completion of the federal-provincial AgriRecovery assessment that is investigating potential extra help for affected farmers.
Minister Thompson said the provincial government had heard farmers’ concerns. The new “Northwestern Livestock Emergency Assistance Initiative” will “get them the critical resources they need to protect their livestock and their farms,” she said.