OFA seeks farmers’ input on wildlife damage to crops issue

Government is also proposing study to research Sandhill cranes across Ontario

PROVIDENCE BAY—The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is seeking farmers’ input in relation to wildlife damage to crop issues that farmers are dealing with, and is requesting they bring it forward to the government.

“This relates to what is going on with the wildlife damage to crops issues that farmers are dealing with,” said Alan Emiry, president of the Manitoulin-North Shore OFA, last week. “OFA is looking for good feedback from members so that they can have solid data to take to the government when they explain why a compensation program is required. As well, the government is proposing to have a research study carried out on Sandhill cranes across Ontario.”

Mr. Emiry noted, “the wildlife damage to crops survey will give us a better idea of what wildlife are causing what damage and I have attached the new survey. We know that wildlife damage is an issue but we need the information to move forward on this file. At the local level of OFA we are hoping to get the survey forms out at some local feed and supply locations so that farmers can fill them out and give their feedback. We will also have them at our annual meeting and dinner on October 4 in Spring Bay. After we gather as many as possible we will forward them to the provincial OFA to take forward to government to lobby for a compensation program.”

In an OFA commentary dated May 2 by Mark Reusser, vice president of OFA, titled ‘Field Crop Farmers need wildlife damage compensation too’ he sates, “wildlife damage to livestock and crops continues to plague farmers. From coyotes attacking flocks of sheep to geese and cranes eating fields of newly emerged wheat or corn, farmers face the effects of nature in everything they farm.”

“Ontario farmers are fortunate to have access to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program that provides compensation to poultry and livestock farmers for losses caused by wildlife. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has always worked closely with the government to ensure this program offers fair coverage and is accessible to anyone who needs it. Updates to the program were recently made in February and OFA continues to work with partners and the government to ensure the program meets the needs of Ontario farmers,” continued Mr. Reusser.

“As part of our ongoing consultation, OFA reminds the provincial government that livestock farmers aren’t the only ones dealing with production loss caused by wildlife,” wrote Mr. Reusser. “Crop farmers can lose whole fields or portions of fields and are left to deal with significant crop damage and yield loss. Deer, geese, Sandhill cranes and migratory birds are just a few of the most common culprits that eat crops or damage standing crops. Unfortunately, Ontario farmers aren’t effectively compensated for these losses.”

“OFA is asking the government to treat all Ontario farmers fairly, no matter what type of farm they operate, and extend a fair wildlife compensation program to crop farmers,” continued Mr. Reusser. “Current compensation options for Ontario crop producers are falling short. The current production insurance program doesn’t offer fair coverage to farmers who experience crop or yield loss due to wildlife damage. OFA is addressing this compensation gap with the Ontario government, asking them to create a wildlife damage compensation program for field crop farmers.”

“Although mitigation efforts are permitted, wildlife damage is not easily controlled and can have significant impact on the production and productivity of a farm business. We’ve heard from our members, and know this issue isn’t going to go away,” wrote Mr. Reusser. “OFA will continue to work with the government to ensure fair wildlife compensation programs are available to all Ontario farmers.”

Additional information provided from Mr. Emiry pointed out that Environment and Climate Change Canada is developing a proposal to research Sandhill cranes across Ontario. The proposal would include looking at damage assessment for perceived and realized damage; build on preliminary surveys to improve understanding of conflicts; explore or trial alternative mitigation techniques that could be useful in managing; genetics of birds causing damage (resources permitting) as well as explore if there is a shift in genetics during migration; a multi-year transmitters study to examine large and small scale movement and relate to habitat availability and human land use.  

The study area will be the Claybelt and Temiskaming areas of Ontario and Quebec, as well as Manitoulin Island/North Shore of Lake Huron. It will be conducted over a five year period, during which normal mitigation tactics will remain in effect. Full details including funding requirements are yet to be determined.

Last fall, the Manitoulin-North Shore OFA called for support from other OFA groups and the federal government in introducing an extended hunt season for Canada geese and the creation of a hunting season for Sandhill cranes.

Mr. Emiry commented on the motion to extend the hunt season for Canada geese. “Having hunt season changed is seen to be a losing battle and I do not believe the provincial level of OFA is going to support lobbying for such. They feel that spending energy on lobbying for compensation program is more effective.”
Mr. Emiry said, “the wildlife damage to crops survey will give us a better idea of what wildlife are causing what damage. We need to hear from individual farmers as to the challenges you are facing. If we are able to obtain and develop an annual wildlife damage profile, we will be in a stronger position to develop and present proposals to the government.” He pointed out the new survey can be filled out electronically at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NTCNRHG or accessed from the OFA page on FarmNorth, About. If readers have any questions they can contact Mark Kunkel, OFA director for Northern Ontario at Mark.kunkel@ofa.on.ca or 705-724-2594.