Premier Doug Ford set up at Lambton-Kent-Middlesex-area Carven Farms to announce not only the province’s $7 billion share of the federal $19 billion “safe re-start” of the economy, but also to announce the planned bump to Ontario’s risk management programs would go ahead a year early.
The federal transfer payment is to cover health care, transit, expanded COVID-19 testing, stockpiling PPE, support for mental health, and to provide critical services within the provinces as the economy slowly re-opens during the pandemic.
“It’s been especially difficult for our incredible farmers, and we should all be so proud of how our farmers have risen to the challenges,” says Premier Ford in a live YouTube broadcast of the press conference.
Ford added that the additional $50 million, originally set for the 2021 risk management program (RMP) budget, will be available this year, for a total commitment of $150 million per year.
Risk management program application windows will also re-open immediately says minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman. The deadline to apply closes at midnight on July 30th, 2020.
Approximately 80 per cent of eligible commercial production in the cattle, hog, sheep, veal, grains and oilseeds, and edible horticulture sectors in Ontario is covered by the provincial RMP, administered through Agricorp.
“I would like to thank Premier Ford and Minister Hardemen for the investment into the RMP program,” says Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) president, Rob Lipsett. “Today’s announcement comes at a critically important time as our sector struggles to combat COVID-induced volatility and losses. BFO looks forward to continued discussions with the province on ways to further strengthen this important program to ensure stability and sustainability for our sector.”
“This a meaningful investment into the Ontario sheep industry, and it could not come at a better time. In addition to our industry having to navigate COVID-19 and the associated rise in operating costs, there is also looming concern about depressed market prices in the second half of this year and rising feed costs should current drought conditions persist,” says Marc Carere, chair of the Ontario Sheep Farmers.
The increased budget for RMP is in addition to a $15 million Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program. Farmers and other operations have access to cost-share funding to help enhance health and safety measures for employees, such as purchasing personal protective equipment, medical testing equipment, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and temporary or permanent modifications to enhance physical distancing. Support is also available for farmers who experience unexpected costs for housing and transportation as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak on their farm.