Province begins review of Ontario wildlife damage compensation program

ONTARIO—As promised previously by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Jeff Leal, a review of the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program is going to be carried out. This is good news, says a representative of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).

“The ministry is holding a review conference meeting on January 31 and February 1,” said Mark Kunkel, of the OFA on Monday. “The review will look at whether the current program accomplished the goals of the program; benefits farming and easy for farmers to apply for. We’re going to indicate that the current program didn’t accomplish what the province wanted. Especially in Northern Ontario, where there are many more predators.”

Pressure has been mounting from many farming groups, municipalities and individuals, leading to the review of the program, which was announced by Mr. Leal at an OFA convention late last fall. Mr. Kunkel explained at the time there are a lot of problems with the program and it is not providing the type of compensation that is needed for farmers who are losing livestock from predators kills.

Mr. Kunkel noted, the percentage of farmers who have made claims for livestock predator kills and been declined for this compensation has gone up from four percent to 20 percent under this program. He said farmers across the province are upset.

Another concern that farmers have is that evaluators in place  now who investigate livestock predator kills in a municipality currently send a report down to the Ministry offices in Guelph and a decision on the claim is made there, said Mr. Kunkel. What is needed is for all investigators to get the proper training and to decide once they have done their work if compensation will be provided, and hopefully once the review is complete, this will be the case, he said.

On January 2, 2018, Mr. Leal released a statement on the evaluation of the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. “Our government knows that farmers do their best to protect their livestock from wildlife predation, however, losses still do occur-and that’s why we provide support to help offset those losses through the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. I’ve been in farmer’s fields and have  seen first-hand the damage that predators have done to their livestock.”

“To ensure that the program works in the best interests of producers, our government made updates in January 2017 following a third-party review and consultations with a dozen partners from across the agri-food value chain. These updates are aligned with the recommendations made in the review; feedback received and is evidence-based.”

“As with all government programs, we want to ensure they are directly benefitting those who rely on them the most,” said Mr. Leal. “When I’m driving on back concessions and sitting around kitchen tables enjoying a cup of coffee with a farmer or sitting down with our municipal leaders, I’m always listening. I want you to know that I have heard your concerns about the updated program. That’s why my ministry will be working with our partners in the coming months to examine the program to ensure farmers are being fairly compensated for their losses.”

“I look forward to reviewing the feedback received as a result of the evaluation and, based on those discussions, changes to the program will be considered,” continued Mr. Leal. “Our nearly 50,000 family farms across the province work hard and our government is committed to supporting them.”