Risk management program will help farmers get on their feet

WELLINGTON COUNTY – The province is expanding a risk management funding program for farmers a year ahead of schedule to help them with unforeseen challenges such as fluctuating market prices, extreme weather events like flooding or drought, labour issues and disease.

Premier Doug Ford, and Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, made the announcement on July 16.

“Our government stands shoulder to shoulder with our farmers during these unprecedented times. As we chart a path to recovery, we will be there for our farmers and their workers to help them continue to put food on our tables,” said Ford in a press release.

“We committed to expanding this program in Year 3 of our mandate, but we are delivering on that commitment a year earlier than promised to provide more stability, income security and peace of mind for farmers, which is long overdue. I’m proud to say promise made, promise kept.”

Approximately 80 per cent of eligible commercial production in the cattle, hog, sheep, veal, grains and oilseeds, and edible horticulture sectors in Ontario is covered by the provincial Risk Management Program.

The announcement was for an additional $50 million into the program, bringing it to $150 million annually.

“We know farmers face tremendous pressures and uncertainties including reduced processing capacity, increased costs and volatile markets. After listening to feedback from the farming sector, that is why we are accelerating our promise to increase the Risk Management Program to $150 million by one year,” said Minister Hardeman.

“We’re committed to providing our farmers with added support at this time and advocating on their behalf with the federal government to help them continue doing their critical work of producing safe, nutritious food for our kitchen tables.”

The increased investment in the Risk Management Program is in addition to a $15 million Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program. Farmers and other operations have access to cost-share funding to help enhance health and safety measures for employees, such as purchasing personal protective equipment, medical testing equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and temporary or permanent modifications to enhance physical distancing. Support is also available for farmers who experience unexpected costs for housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak on their farm.

Farm associations like the plan and the new investment.

“Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is thrilled to see this funding increase that was originally earmarked for next year brought forward and made available to farm businesses during a challenging and tumultuous year for many farmers,” said Keith Currie, OFA President, in a press release.

“Today’s announcement from the Ontario government will help to provide the critical support the agriculture sector needs to weather the financial storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO), agreed.

“Today’s announcement comes at a critically important time as our sector struggles to combat COVID-induced volatility and losses. BFO looks forward to continued discussions with the province on ways to further strengthen this important program to ensure stability and sustainability for our sector.”

Applications for the Risk Management Program close at midnight on July 30th. Producers should contact the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ delivery agent, Agricorp, to enroll in the Risk Management Program and AgriStability or to discuss their individual files.

Canada and Ontario have also announced up to $10 million of support for beef and pork sectors through AgriRecovery. Ontario has an estimated 49,600 farms that contribute an estimated $7.6 billion annually to the province’s economy.