P.E.I. farmers waiting to hear on claim for assistance after Dorian damage

Farmers across P.E.I., including a group of corn producers, are now waiting to hear from Ottawa after tallying up their losses from post-tropical storm Dorian.

Application has been submitted to the federal AgriRecovery program

Randy Drenth says this year's corn crop is about two weeks ahead of last year's, but he won't celebrate until it's harvested and in the bins. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Farmers across P.E.I., including a group of corn producers, are now waiting to hear from Ottawa after tallying up their losses from post-tropical storm Dorian, which the Federation of Agriculture says were "in the millions." 

An application for federal compensation, through the AgriRecovery program, has been submitted on behalf of corn producers, as well as beef and hog producers, dairy farmers and apple growers.

Randy Drenth, who has about 50 hectares of corn in Summerfield, P.E.I., saw his yield cut in half because of damage from Dorian.

"Last year, our corn crop got seriously impacted with damage from the hurricane," Drenth said.

"We lost yield. We lost quality. Everything that we don't want to happen, happened all in one night."

Randy Drenth looks over the damage to his corn field from post-tropical storm Dorian. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Drenth said the early part of 2020 was tough, waiting to hear if the application to AgriRecovery was moving forward.

"It was very stressful at the time," Drenth said.

"There's always unknowns and then with the COVID thing, the markets were fluctuating and there was another level of unknowns."

Stressful spring

Drenth said planting time was also stressful.

Patrick Dunphy's corn fields were also severely hit by post-tropical storm Dorian. (Julien LeCacheur/CBC)

"This spring was a real challenge and was a real challenge for a lot of growers,  just trying to figure out the financial side of how we can put a new crop in the ground," Drenth said.

"The AgriRecovery application still is moving forward but there is no certainty, to go to any lenders to say that this money was coming."

This is what one of Randy Drenth's fields looked like after Dorian. (Randy Drenth)

Drenth said many producers had to find other ways to be able to afford to plant a crop this season. 

"I've spoken to some producers that were able to get more loans, some that were able to just not pay off operating lines and push them forward to this year," Drenth said.

"Some that were just really struggling to be able to even find input suppliers that would allow them to put a crop in the ground."

Important step

Robert Godfrey of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture said sending the application to Ottawa has been an important step. 

"If Ottawa agrees with the province, and agrees with the data that was provided, then we can potentially have a payout sometime later this year," Godfrey said.

The federation worked with the provincial Department of Agriculture to develop a survey that went out to commodity groups affected by Dorian.

The province also had to put in the application for federal relief — based on the information gathered about the damages from Dorian.

These corn fields in Guernsey Cove, P.E.I., were flattened by post-tropical storm Dorian. (Julien LeCacheur/CBC)

Godfrey said COVID-19 did delay the process as the surveys went out in mid-March. The data has now been submitted to the federal government as part of the application process.

Godfrey won't say the dollar figure of the damages, other than it is "in the millions." 

"Now that the application's in Ottawa's hands, we are hoping that things move quickly and that we get money to producers," Godfrey said. 

"Because we are talking millions of dollars of damage."

Frustrated farmers

Godfrey said he has heard from producers, frustrated at the time it has taken to get the application to the federal government. 

"The process is very comprehensive, as it should be," Godfrey said.

"But certainly it's been drawn out to a point now where people are starting to wonder where are we on this, why hasn't this been completed and the federation shares that at this point."

Randy Drenth found a lot of kernel damage on the side of the cob that the wind hit. (Randy Drenth/Twitter)

Drenth said he hopes Island farmers will hear back soon from the federal government.

"The sooner, the better," Drenth said.

"I know that it takes a lot of time and everybody wants to be sure of the numbers before we move forward, but just to have some kind of certainty, that something is coming, would definitely help."

More from CBC P.E.I.


About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


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