Thunder Bay

Province announces funding relief for northwestern Ontario cattle farmers

Cattle farmers in northwestern Ontario will receive some financial relief from the province this winter, as they struggle to cover feed costs that are being driven up by a countrywide drought.

Funding designed to help cover costs over the winter; feed prices have risen due to countrywide drought

The province is providing financial support to northwestern Ontario cattle farmers to help them care for their animals over the winter, as a countrywide drought drives feed costs up. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Cattle farmers in northwestern Ontario will receive some financial relief from the province this winter, as they struggle to cover feed costs that are being driven up by a countrywide drought.

The provincial government on Thursday announced the AgriRecovery program, which provides up to $220 per head of cattle — other livestock species, including bison, elk, equine, alpacas, llamas, deer, sheep, and goat are also covered — to help farmers care for their animals over the course of the winter.

"It's certainly going to relieve a lot of that financial issue, and some of the mental health stress knowing that that there's just that little bit extra," Rob Lipsett, president of Beef Farmers of Ontario, told CBC News. "They have more options than just sell the cows and move off the farm."

"I think it has caused quite a bit of a relief, and maybe a little bit of happiness ... from what we're seeing."

The announcement was made in Emo, Ont. and builds on an earlier round of funding for Ontario cattle farmers, which provided $2 million in emergency funding for feed, fencing, and water.

"I'd never experienced a drought as vast or as severe as this," Lipsett said. "The issue compounded when reports trickled in that this drought stretches from B.C. through to parts of eastern Ontario, and no one really knew where to turn or how to handle this, because in previous droughts, there were areas of the country that didn't suffer and we could share hay supplies and work together with Western farmers."

"But it was a real eye-opener when everybody was lacking feed and access to water."

Lipsett commended the province for acting quickly in providing relief to cattle farmers and noted that more talks about further support beyond the winter are planned.

"I think anybody in agriculture, and science understands that a drought of this severity isn't going to be fixed over the period of one winter," he said. "[The Ontario government has] a real understanding that this could impact supply throughout our industry for the next couple of years, and they're very eager to work with us."

Lipsett said the drought has caused a great deal of stress for cattle farmers.

"I just encourage everybody to watch out for your friends and neighbours and lend that hand, even if it's not asked for, if you're starting to notice someone that looks like they're struggling," he said. "Don't let them struggle alone. We're all in this together."

Applications for the new AgriRecovery program are being accepted until November 1. More information can be found on the Agricorp website.

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