August 3, 2012
Dear Minister Ritz and Minister McMeekin:
The National Farmers Union – Ontario would like to acknowledge and thank you for your efforts in beginning to assess the impact of the drought on farmers across Ontario and across commodities by opening an AgriRecovery file.
As farmers, we are fully aware that it is not possible at this point to determine the full impact of the drought on all Ontario farmers as some crops, particularly soybeans and corn, are still under production and in some areas may, with timely rains, bring a decent harvest. However, we urge you to consider the following points as you begin to look at options to provide disaster relief to Ontario farmers:
- the primary harvest season for hay and many forages is past;
- between the drought, the frost damage and damage from insects, including alfalfa weevil and army worms, the yield of first cut hay was below average in most of the province;
- in many areas, if farmers harvested a second cut of hay the windrows were barely visible in the fields;
- pastures have been dried up since early July in much of the province;
- beef, sheep, dairy, goat and other livestock farmers have been feeding their limited winter supply of hay since early July;
- there is little hay available to purchase in the province, and the price is skyrocketing;
- with more beef farmers deciding to cull animals and cut down on their breeding stock, the price farmers receive for cattle is dropping;
- with farmers selling off their breeding stock, there will be lasting implications for the ability of Ontario farmers to meet the demand for Ontario raised beef and lamb in future years;
- other farmers, including vegetable farmers, market gardeners and bee keepers have seen a drop in their production, and thus, a drop in sales revenue;
- between the loss of income and the high cost of feed for livestock, the drought will lead to the loss of family farms in Ontario.
Existing programs, including AgriStability, AgriInsurance and AgriInvest, are designed to cover losses within the abnormal weather fluctuations that occur every five or six years or abnormal market fluctuations. Each farmer decides whether or not they want to enrol in the existing programs or if they are able to manage the occasional weather or market fluctuation through their own farm management. The drought impacting farmers in Ontario this year goes well beyond the typical weather fluctuations farmers in Ontario experience every few years and are able to withstand. The drought of 2012 is being felt in most of the province, and it started early in the season, thus having a significant impact on the growth of hay and pasture.
Ontario farmers rarely need disaster relief, but this year, farmers across the province and across commodities are facing a disaster. For some farmers, timely rains may divert the disaster, but for other farmers, especially livestock farmers, some vegetable farmers/market gardeners and grain farmers, the disaster has already arrived. The NFU – O takes the position that disaster relief should be available to farmers faced with a disaster and should be available to farmers, whether or not they are enrolled in other programs.
The NFU – O has also noted your decision to designate affected drought regions under the Livestock Tax Deferral Program. This will provide some benefit to those farmers who decide to cull animals because of the shortage of feed. However, the National Farmers Union – Ontario believes that our two levels of government should be working towards food sovereignty in Ontario and all of Canada. Food sovereignty means giving family farmers the support they need to stay on the land and to keep their herds and flocks intact so they can continue producing food for our local markets. The tax deferral program helps farmers get rid of livestock; it does not help farmers retain their livestock and their livelihoods.
The NFU – O is asking both levels of government to continue to work together to look at options to provide support to Ontario farmers, across commodities and farm sizes, in drought affected areas across the province, under AgriRecovery. On behalf of farmers raising beef, sheep, dairy, goats and other pasture-fed livestock, the NFU – O is requesting that you fast-track the assessment, so livestock farmers have the financial resources they need to access the feed to
maintain their herds and continue to provide food to the citizens of Ontario now and in the future.
NFU – O Coordinator
c.c. Mr. Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Conservative Agriculture Critic
c.c. Mr. John Vanthof, Ontario NDP Agriculture Critic
c.c. Hon. Robert Peterson, Federal Liberal Agriculture and Agri-food Critic
c.c. Mr. Frank Valeriote, Federal Liberal Agriculture and Agri-food Critic
c.c. Mr. André Bellavance, Federal Bloc Québécois Agriculture and Agri-food Critic
c.c. Mr. Malcolm Allen, Federal NDP Agriculture and Agri-food Critic
View PDF of this letter as sent to the Ministers.