No ad hoc aid for Ontario producers: Ritz

The federal government doesn’t expect to announce any ad hoc aid programs for Ontario farmers suffering from drought, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters in Saskatoon July 31.

"I think we have fullness in our programming that allows us the latitude to address this," Ritz said.

Earlier in the day Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty asked Ottawa to join his government is assessing support options for livestock producers affected by dry weather under the AgriRecovery program, designed to provide farmers with disaster relief.

The request triggered a 45-day assessment period, Ritz said. In the meantime drought-affected farmers can expect support through AgriInsurance and possibility AgriStability, he said.

"We will work as judiciously and as quickly as we can in getting those assessments done so farmers have access to the cash they need to continue moving," Ritz said. "We’re more concerned at this point about the livestock sector, which is going to need access to feed because pastures just aren’t there."

Ritz said he hopes in the future Ontario livestock producers will protect themselves by purchasing forage insurance. Only about 10 per cent of Ontario’s forage acres are insured, compared to 75 to 80 per cent of annual crop acres.

Farmers should get cash for lost crops through AgriInsurance relatively quickly and eligible farmers can also apply for advances against pending AgriStability payments, Ritz said.

Recently two inches of rain in some parts of agri-Ontario brought some relief, Ritz said. It should help the soybean crop but it’s too late for the corn, he added.

While touring farms in eastern Ontario, Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, also called on the federal government to accelerate tax relief for livestock producers in affected regions through the identification of Prescribed Drought Regions.

Ontario is committing that farmers in Prescribed Drought Regions will be protected from reductions in their AgriStability coverage if they are:
• Experiencing challenges from the lack of rain and dry conditions.
• Forced to sell breeding stock due to hay and pasture shortages.

Once an area has been identified as a Prescribed Drought Region farmers are allowed to defer a portion of the sale proceeds to a future tax year, according to an Ontario government news release.

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