Farm groups look for funds to shore up COVID-19-created losses

Ontario and national groups are say the funds are needed to keep farms in business

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The pressure is being ratcheted up on government by agriculture organizations for funds to make sure farm systems survive some of the shocks of COVID-19.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has asked for a $2.6 billion package in addition to any of the other farm safety nets already in existence.

In Ontario more organizations are looking for full funding of the provincial Risk Management Program (RMP).

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Why it matters:

Farmers have to continue to raise food as they are designated as an essential service.

 

Beef Farmers of Ontario, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Veal Farmers of Ontario, and the Ontario Sheep Farmers recently came together to ask the premier and minister of agriculture food and rural affairs to fully fund the RMP.

“COVID-19 impacts have exacerbated the challenges already faced by Ontario’s grain and livestock farmers and immediate support is needed to ensure our farmers can continue to deliver local, quality food to Ontarians,” the organizations said in making the request.

The ruling Conservatives campaigned to increase funding to the RMP, but said it wouldn’t be implemented until later in their mandate.

Beef, grain, veal and sheep farmers identified supply chain disruptions as a major risk to farms under COVID-19. Supply chain problems have resulted in lack of demand by processors for beef and other meats and a reduction in demand for grain, resulting in decreased price for all of those commodities.

The United States has provided a multi-billion dollar package to its farmers.

“Farmers are asking the province of Ontario to share in the risk that it takes for a farmer to grow food for the province and the country – the RMP program is not a bailout”, said Markus Haerle, chairman of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Farmers are risking their livelihoods, and a fully funded RMP would only provide support if the cost of growing the crop isn’t covered by the price.”

The RMP has an allowance that the province can make changes to the program “in case of an extraordinary market or production disruption”.

“If COVID-19 does not represent extraordinary market conditions, we don’t know what does,” the organizations said.

The CFA says its $2.6 billion request is a first phase number covering extra costs incurred until late April.

“Imagine if six months ago someone had told Canada to stock up on face masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment, our nation would be in a much stronger position to weather this storm. A month ago, we offered our government a similar warning for a different looming problem, the potential collapse of components of our food supply chain. ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ could never be more true,” said Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

Hog farmers have made a request of $20 per hog from government to pay for losses that the Canadian Pork Council pegs at $30 to $50 per pig.

About the author

Editor

John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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