Ontario's agriculture minister said the province won't be offering new money for struggling farmers in eastern Ontario, but said he has asked the federal government for financial assistance.

Ted McMeekin, the minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, was in North Gower, Ont., meeting with livestock farmers on Tuesday, a day after the province made a formal request to the federal government to conduct an assessment under the AgriRecovery framework for disaster relief.

The federal government has 45 days to conduct such an assessment.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Saskatoon, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said that Ottawa was "absolutely" prepared to respond to Ontario's request, pointing out that there are a number of existing programs that should  help Ontario farmers, including federal crop insurance.

"I understand some 75 to 80 per cent of cropland is under insurance guidelines. That's great," Ritz told reporters, pointing out that recent rain in some areas may save the soybean crop although a lot of the corn is "beyond salvation."

"The crop insurance people are already on the ground and doing those assessments so those cheques can flow fairly quickly," Ritz said. 

"We're more concerned at this point about the livestock sector, which is going to need access to feed, because the pastures just aren't there and some of them didn't get their first cut of hay, let alone their second or third that they're used to," the federal minister said.

Ritz pointed out that unlike cash crops, only about 10 per cent of forage crops for livestock are covered by crop insurance.

Livestock assistance

McMeekin asked Ottawa to accelerate tax relief for livestock producers in regions that are most affected by the drought.

The province has also asked Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to help the province assess support options for livestock producers.

The province had previously sent a letter regarding relief for the southern Ontario fruit tree freeze. The assessment of that request is due Sept. 3.

The hot, dry summer has devastated many crops in eastern Ontario, hurting both grain and livestock farmers who rely on grains for their feed.

McMeekin also appeared at Maple Lane Farms in Cobden, Ont., at 3 p.m.

With files from The Canadian Press