The following letter was forwarded to Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, after the announcement made by OMAFRA minister Ted McMeekin during his tour of Renfrew County July 31.
August 1, 2012
The Executive of the Renfrew County National Farmers Union learned that Minister Ted McMeekin (Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs) upon his tour of Renfrew County made an announcement on July 31st, 2012 stating, "The Province of Ontario has officially requested aid from the Federal Government under the Agri Recovery framework for disaster relief for farms in Eastern Ontario including Renfrew County."
We note in Ted McMeekin’s announcement that Agri Recovery is used only in extreme cases to "top-up" shortfalls in existing aid. May we point out that existing programs i.e. Agri Stability and other risk management programs are geared to cover losses within abnormal weather fluctuations which can occur every five/six years. This present drought disaster is far beyond that –
• farmers are using their winter hay reserves in July and will have to continue into late summer/fall
• farmers are stressed, livestock is stressed and pastures have completely depleted and water holes/wells are drying up
• hay prices due to a pending shortage are rising and in most cases farmers are short of cash to buy hay or to bring in feed from a distance
• cattle numbers at sale barns have increased and prices for cattle have dropped anywhere from 15% to 25%, thus causing another shortfall for farmers
• it is predicted that between 25-50% of Renfrew County’s cattle numbers may be sold off due to the drought. This will deplete the good genetics farmers have built up over the years and leave farm incomes in jeopardy for the coming years
• some crop farmers with forward contracts will have only 10% of their crop. They will be unable to fill their contracts and/or pay for their costly spring inputs
• other farmers including market gardeners, beekeepers and maple syrup farmers are also greatly affected with beekeepers estimating to gather approximately 30-40% of their average honey crops
• a drought of this caliber has the potential of leaving a lasting effect on family farms, agriculture-related businesses and the community as a whole
This drought is the worst drought in recorded history. Therefore, on behalf of all farmers in Renfrew County we sincerely ask The Hon. Gerry Ritz to move on a decision in respect to approving funding for our farmers via the Agri Recovery Program as soon as possible. Farmers in dire need cannot wait the forty-five day window allowed for his administration to come up with a decision on funding.
This letter is also addressed to influential elected officials and/or department heads who may be able to assist in speeding up the funding approval process.
The Renfrew County National Farmers Union, on behalf of its farmers will be awaiting a reply at your earliest convenience.