OFA: Ontario Farmers Face Challenging Growing Season

By Bruce Buttar, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

This year’s growing season started with cool, wet weather. While farmers struggled with the whims of Mother Nature to plant crops, the rain just didn’t stop, causing flooding in some areas of the province.

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Farmers are accustomed to dealing with weather, they watch it closely, planning their days and livelihoods around the changing weather patterns. And the weather is a regular conversation topic in rural and farming communities. Last year, drought-like conditions plagued areas of the province. This year, especially in eastern Ontario, farmers are struggling with flooded fields, hay they can’t harvest and drowned out crops.

Weather, the biggest and most important variable on a farm, is tough to manage. The unavoidable results of unfavourable weather include unplanted acres, lower yields, and poor quality crops. All these impact the farm business, often resulting in lower income. Farm families face these risks to their business and livelihoods every year and the consensus seems to be that the risks are increasing. That’s why proactive Business Risk Management (BRM) programs are so important – to mitigate the impact of weather and other unavoidable variables farmers face to their businesses.

Ontario farmers have access to BRM programs, funded in part by individual farmers and the government. Some, like crop insurance, work reasonably well. Other programs are ineffective at managing farm business risks and the weather disasters we are experiencing more frequently. The challenges farmers face every day are changing. That’s why a comprehensive review of our BRM programs is so important.

Minister Leal championed the review at this summer’s meeting of agriculture ministers, working with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a focused coalition of Canadian farm organizations. As the 2017 growing season continues, Ontario farmers will persevere. In the meantime, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) will work closely with allied farm organizations and government to ensure the risk management needs of our members are met.

OFA continues to advocate for farmers across Ontario to ensure suitable, sustainable BRM programs are in place to help farmers when they are faced with business risks like extreme weather, disease, crop failure or market failure.