National Newswatch

Details to come out soon.


Ottawa—The Ontario government will make up to $2 million in financial aid available for farmers in Northwestern Ontario struggling with a prolonged drought that has gripped the area.

Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson and Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford, the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, said July 27 the goal of the Northwestern Livestock Emergency Assistance Initiative was to provide feed, water and basic livestock needs as soon as possible.

Beef Farmers of Ontario will be distributing $800,000 to cattle producers in the Kenora and Rainy River districts grappling with feed shortages and the rest of the money will come via Agricorp, the ministers said. “We know farmers need support now,” Thompson said.

Agricorp said it will soon provide details and applications for funding for farmers “to source water for livestock and to purchase and install new fencing to allow livestock to safely graze in alternative locations.”

Rickford credited the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, BFO and Grain Farmers of Ontario for raising awareness with the government about the problems the drought has created. The province will work with federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on longer term measures through AgriRecovery.

“Farmers in Northwestern Ontario have faced unprecedented dry weather this summer which has created increased stresses on their crops and feed available for their livestock,” Thompson said. “Our government has heard their concerns and is responding to get them the critical resources they need to protect their livestock and their farms.”

BFO President Rob Lipsett said “These short-term measures are an important step taken by the province as we await the completion of the federal-provincial AgriRecovery assessment that is investigating potential additional assistance for farmers in affected regions of the province.”

OFA President Peggy Brekveld said the assistance is “a relief for farmers in the area, not only for their businesses, but for their mental health too, giving them peace of mind that help is on the way.”

Farmers expressed serious concerns and illustrated the severity of the crisis during an industry roundtable last week hosted by OFA, BFO and Grain Farmers of Ontario about crops burning off, pastures drying out, and in some cases, minimal access to water resulting in immediate sell-off of livestock, she said.

OFA was pleased to hear Minister Rickford confirm that farmers facing similar circumstances in nearby regions may be considered for support. “We will continue working together with the provincial government and industry partners to address the needs of our northern farmers.”

According to the latest agriculture census, Rainy River had 235 farms, including 109 beef cattle ranches, eight dairy farms, and four sheep/goat farms while Kenora had 72 farms, including seven beef farms.

Lipsett said farmers in the area are currently making difficult herd inventory decisions, which will have a long-term impact on the current infrastructure supporting the regions’ livestock sector.

“BFO is prepared to do what we need to do to administer immediate relief for our farmers who are in desperate need of feed to ensure their animals are well cared for during such a trying time.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.

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