Drought funds will largely benefit western Ontario farms

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MINDEMOYA – Farmers in Northwestern Ontario have been hammered by drought and wildfires this summer, as have those across the prairies into British Columbia. In response, the federal government announced $100 million in support for cattle producers whose operations are at risk because of drought and wildfires across the nation—including in Ontario—but the bulk of those relief funds will likely fall in the northwest of the province, according to Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) zone 15 member  representative Stephanie Vanthof, who noted farmers in the northwest have been hard hit by wildfire and drought. 

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the funding under the AgriRecovery framework on August 6. AgriRecovery is a federal-provincial-territorial program which provides farmers with funding for things like feed, water or other necessities to keep their operations running. “There are a lot of farm families across the West and in parts of Ontario who are making tough decisions in a difficult situation,” said Minister Bibeau in a release. “Our government is working closely with our provincial partners to provide timely support to producers in need.” Minister Bibeau left the door open to further cash injections should requests exceed the initial $100 million.

As for federally or provincially supported feed programs to the beleaguered regions, Ms. Vanthof noted that while there are anecdotally some private movements of hay to struggling operations, there are currently no government sanctioned campaigns underway.

Northwestern Ontario has been experiencing a severe drought for months, which has left many producers without feed or water for their animals, causing some to sell off their cattle to keep afloat.

Under the AgriRecovery framework, the federal government will match provincial dollars on a 60-40 cost-shared basis under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

According to the news release, the government is working to finalize agreements with each of the provinces involved, and further details will be released shortly as they become available.

In making the AgriRecovery announcement, Minister Bibeau also announced additional regions would qualify for the Livestock Tax Deferral program.

Under that initiative, farmers who have been forced to sell a significant portion of their breeding herd can defer a portion of their income from cattle sales to the following tax year, when the income may be at least partially offset by the cost of reacquiring breeding animals to rebuild their herds.

Farmers facing an impact to their mental health due to stress and uncertainty imposed by the drought are urged to contact The Do More Ag Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada. The foundation can be found at www.domore.ag.