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Ontario Drought Situation Severe – Letter to Minister from National Farmers Union – Ontario

National Farmers Union – Ontario
In Union is Strength
5420 Hwy #6 North
R.R. #5
Suite 229
Guelph, Ontario
N1H 6J2

July 16, 2012

Dear Minister McMeekin:

As you know the National Farmers Union in Ontario represents thousands of family farms across Ontario. Our members grow and raise a wide variety of crops and livestock. Across the province, NFU members are facing increasingly severe drought conditions. NFU members in Renfrew county have called this the worst drought since 1965, but the drought is affecting farmers from Renfrew to New Liskeard, Niagara and Huron counties and points in-between.

The lack of significant rainfall this spring and summer comes on top of the setbacks to tree fruit crops and perennial forage crops from the warm weather in March and the subsequent return to normal frosty conditions in April. The lack of snow cover through much of the province during the past winter and the hot weather in recent weeks are also contributing factors.

For farmers faced with the loss of crops due to the lack of rainfall, it has also been disheartening to hear staff from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in the media this past week, suggesting crops in Ontario are doing well and Ontario farmers stand to benefit from the drought in the mid-west US. A few areas of the province have received timely rainfall, but NFU members across much of the province are facing:

  • dried up pastures forcing farmers to start feeding hay now that was stored for winter;
  • a poor first cut of hay due to frost in the spring and lack of adequate moisture;
  • a second cut of hay with windrows that are barely visible in the field;
  • a severe shortage of hay to feed during the winter and little to no hay available for farmers to purchase;
  • farmers preparing to sell off livestock as they have no feed to get them through the winter;
  • vegetable, potato and berry crops drying up along with irrigation ponds;
  • vegetable crops not pollinating properly or aborting flowers due to the dry and hot conditions;
  • tree fruit crops almost wiped out by spring frosts; and
  • corn and soybeans coming into the pollination stage with inadequate moisture in the ground and little chance of fully pollinating.

The National Farmers Union is issuing a call to local food eaters to continue to support farmers through this challenging situation, even though the harvest of local produce will not be as bountiful this summer.

The NFU is asking you, as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to:

1. put a process in place immediately to provide disaster relief to farmers across Ontario who are already running short of feed and will still need winter feed for their livestock;
2. similarly prepare to provide disaster relief to farmers who will not have crops to sell this year because of the drought;
3. strongly advocate for the need for disaster relief programs within Growing Forward 2; and
4. ensure your ministry and staff are aware of what is happening in the fields and pastures across the province and do not gloss over the seriousness of the situation.

We trust you will treat the drought across much of Ontario as urgent and serious and will make it a priority to take the steps necessary to provide disaster relief to Ontario farmers. Please let us know your plans in this regard.

Yours sincerely,

Ann Slater,
NFU Ontario Coordinator

c.c. Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Premier Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
c.cii. Mr. Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Conservative Agriculture Critic
c.ciii. Mr. John Vanthof, Ontario NDP Agriculture Critic
c.civ. Mr. Tim Hudak, Leader Conservative Party of Ontario Ms. Andrea Horwath, Leader NDP Party of Ontario

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