By Connor Lynch
The Ontario government announced last month that Ontario’s Wildlife Damage Compensation Program was due for yet more changes.
OMAFRA announced on Sept. 10 that two changes were kicking in, effective retroactively to Sept. 4, and the government would be consulting with the ag industry through the fall, aiming to overhaul the program by early 2019.
First, farmers who don’t have a valid Farm Business Registration Number but did last year can still apply under the program.
Second, the province updated the pricing to distinguish between steers and heifers.
They’re good first steps, said Beef Farmers of Ontario’s manager of policy and issues, Richard Horne. “It’s a great sign that they’re intending to make more meaningful changes.”
The BFO and OMAFRA have been in the process of setting up meetings, he said, adding that “the Minister has committed to doing this as soon as possible.”
The province plans to introduce new ways to prove predation occurred; make sure investigators are effectively trained to assess predation; separate out the appeals process so OMAFRA isn’t looking at both claims and appeals of rejected claims, a big ask from farmers; and refine the pricing model to make sure it reflects market prices.
The predator kill compensation program got an overhaul in January, 2017 but drew criticism from producers before the year was out. Predation claim rejections jumped from five per cent to over 20 per cent, and some investigators complained that their opinions weren’t being taken seriously.
The new Minister of Agriculture, Ernie Hardeman, committed last month to revamping the program yet again.
Whatever changes industry and OMAFRA hash out, they aren’t expected until the new year.
Some farmers have been arguing for more than a year that the current compensation program is not workable, is biased against livestock owners and is unrealistic.