Province announces details of program to aid agricultural, horticultural societies

WOODSTOCK – The Ontario government has announced details of a $5 million program to support the province’s Agricultural and Horticultural Societies impacted by the pandemic. The funding, orgiinally announced on Nov. 9, is flowing through the Agricultural and Horticultural Support and Recovery Funding Initiative.

Programming details were announced Jan. 26 by Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association annual general meeting.

“Agricultural and horticultural societies play a vital role in agricultural education while making significant contributions to the economy of rural Ontario,” said Hardeman. “This funding will help support these societies during a difficult period so they can operate future fall fairs and exhibits and participate in our future economic recovery.”

Societies have been unable to hold revenue generating events over the past 10 months due to health and safety concerns around COVID-19.

This one-time initiative features two funding streams:

– $1.8 million in base support funding will provide eligible agricultural societies with $7,000, and eligible horticultural societies with $1,140 in funding to support their continued delivery of agricultural and horticultural education across Ontario.;

– $3.2 million in hardship funding for eligible agricultural societies will provide additional support, which will be based on their reported gate receipts from 2019. This will help off-set operating losses, liabilities, and fixed overhead costs.

Funding is expected to be completed before March 31.

“The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS), is grateful for the support from the Ontario government,” said Vince Brennan, Manager, Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. “This funding will help support our agricultural societies and their communities.”

Katharine Smyth, president of the Ontario Horticultural Association.  noted societies/clubs have seen reduced membership numbers and have been unable to raise funds to continue their community involvements.

The governments “consideration and response to their needs during the pandemic, by way of providing them  extra finances will go a long way to support them through this crisis,” she stated.