After program changes were introduced to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program for January 1, 2017, the government launched a review last fall into how the adapted program was working. Based on feedback received from the concluded review, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will soon release updates to the program.
The last round of changes to the program involved adding a published table of fair-market value compensation based on livestock type and weight; a tweaked appeal process, where farmers pay a non-refundable fee for an appeal; defined timelines for compensation to municipalities; and, the establishment of “reasonable care plans” for those who exceed a certain number of claims per year.
What farmers said
Under the new rules, farmers reported more denied claims, lower compensation on average, and delays of up to six months between when kills happened and when compensation was received for approved claims. It was also reported that over 90 percent of appealed claims — paid for by farmers — remained as the initial ruling.
Farmers also reported that reasonable care plans emphasized the need for predator-proof fencing, but there is no support or funding to meet the expectations set out in reasonable care plans.
What happens next
Last fall’s review of the Wildlife Compensation Program will result in some further changes to the program. Details are still preliminary at this point, however, the province states “communication with farmers and municipal investigators for claims and appeals” will improve immediately.
Beginning this fall, the government will “deliver training and tools for municipal investigators so that they have all the skills, background and knowledge to investigate suspected livestock predation.”
Beginning next winter, farmers and municipal investigators will have “more ways to prove wildlife predation occurred, and will benefit from greater independence and transparency in the appeals process.”
It is also noted that farmers will “receive compensation in alignment with market prices,” alluding to further clarification and classification of animals. As one example, there will be separate compensation pricing for steers and heifers, the province says.
“Our government is committed to supporting farmers, especially when they face the crippling challenge of losing their livestock to predators.
Our government is working closely with our agricultural partners to implement these changes by early 2019 to help provide the best support for our hardworking farmers across the province” — Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.