ONTARIO – For the past four years the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) and Ontario Sheep Farmers (OSF) have been advocating for changes to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. The changes to the program in 2017 made it much more difficult for producers to receive a payment for livestock that was killed or injured by a predator.
The most frustrating change for livestock producers was the requirement to prove that an eligible predator was the cause of the damage. Given time constraints, weather and scavengers it is often not possible for farmers to collect the required photo evidence of the carcass.
“After an extensive lobby campaign by OFA and its community partners in 2018, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) made changes to the program guidelines for the 2019 program year. These changes addressed some of the frustration’s farmers felt with the program by introducing ‘secondary evidence’ to allow the possibility of an approved claim in scenarios where photo evidence alone can’t confirm damage caused by eligible wildlife,” an OFA release on January 8, 2021 says.
The OFA notes, “these changes were a step in the right direction, but it was clear that more work was required to ensure that Ontario livestock producers are fairly compensated for losses they suffer from Ontario wildlife.”
“Throughout 2019 and 2020 OFA continued to lobby for changes to the program focusing specifically on two changes: one, having secondary evidence be included as primary evidence to ensure all livestock producers who suffered damage as a result of wildlife would be compensated. Secondly, to make administrative improvements to the program so that livestock producers can receive compensation in a more timely manner,” continued the OFA release.
“OFA is pleased that the government has listened to the suggestions brought forward by the industry and have acted upon many of our recommendations. Effective for the 2021 program year, OMAFRA has made two additional changes to the program.”
It was explained that OMAFRA will now be notifying municipalities of an applicant’s fully approved claim and initiating the payment process when the approval decision is made rather than after the appeal period ends. Secondly, the ministry is providing the administrator the authority to waive deadlines if there are unforeseen challenges.
“These two changes will ensure 80 percent of farmers who successfully submit a claim will be paid up to 20 business days sooner than they have in the past,” says the OFA. “We look forward to continuing to work together with the government as well as Beef Farmers of Ontario and Ontario Sheep Farmers to ensure the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program meets the needs of livestock producers.”