National Farmers Union in Ontario Calls for Improvements to Hay and Pasture Insurance

(Guelph)-  “Memories of the hot dry summer of 2012 may be dim now, as Ontarians cope with this week’s cold and snow, but the effects of the drought are still making life difficult for livestock farmers,” said Ken Mills, Middlesex County farmer and NFU-Ontario Youth Advisor.

The National Farmers Union-Ontario recently sent a letter to Agriculture Minister, Hon. Ted McMeekin and Agricorp outlining a number of changes it would like to see made to the Hay and Pasture Insurance Program. Mills said that the 2012 drought did not affect farms equally across a region or across a municipality and that several NFU-O members who took out insurance have suggested that their insurance premiums were wasted.

Changes NFU-O members would like to see under the Hay and Pasture Crop Insurance Program include:

  • consideration of the timing of rainfall, not just the total rainfall over the season. Rainfall in August did not make up for the lack of hay harvested in first and second cut, but it did have an impact on whether or not farmers with insurance received a payout;
  • a more flexible rainfall measurement system, as the use of one or two rainfall collection stations per municipality does not account for the greatlocalvariation in rainfall amounts that come with rain from thunderstorms;
  • consideration of winter snow load, evaporation due to high temperatures, amount of sunlight and the number of windy days should all be factored into calculations for hay and pasture insurance, as they all led to the lack of forage available for harvest in 2012.

The National Farmers Union in Ontario acknowledges the provincial government’s support for matching funding for transportation of hay through the Hay East program and funding through AgriRecovery to cover the costs of transporting feed to breeding stock or to move breeding stock to feed.

“We hope these programs will help some farmers make it through the winter and that they will help maintain the breeding herds that are essential to Ontario's food sovereignty down the road,” said Ann Slater, NFU-Ontario Coordinator. “However, livestock farmers, including beef, sheep and dairy farmers, in many areas of the province continue to contact us about the lack of availability of affordable forages and the shortcomings of the Hay and Pasture Insurance Program. From Elgin county across to Renfrew County farmers have told us in the past few weeks that they do not have enough hay for their herds this winter.”

Hay East, an initiative to bring hay from western Canada to Ontario has provided some farmers with needed hay but the cost of trucking presents a challenge. The NFU-O acknowledges that there have been provincial and federal funds provided to this program and to an AgriRecovery program, but these two programs have not gone far enough. Farmers are still not able to find enough affordable hay to feed their animals this winter.

The full letter can be downloaded from the NFU website at http://www.nfu.ca/story/letter-ontario-ag-minister-hay-and-pasture-insurance-agrirecovery-and-hay-east.

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For more information:

Ann Slater, NFU-Ontario Coordinator:519-349-2448 or aslater@quadro.net

Ken Mills, NFU-Ontario Youth Advisor:519-225-2163 or kenmills@quadro.net