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by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman says he’s disappointed with the provincial agriculture minister’s response to a petition to compensate farmers who failed to qualify for a 2007 emergency assistance program.
“It doesn’t tell us anything more than we already knew,” the Progressive Conservative critic for agriculture and food says.
Hardeman calls the minister’s response “disheartening” for the 100 emerging and expanding farmers who did not receive money from the $130 million program intended to aid those in the cattle, hog and horticulture sectors.
Signers of the petition, mostly hog producers, say they fell through the cracks because the province, in order to speed the program’s delivery, calculated payments based on 2000-2004 information already filed with federal and provincial cost of production programs.
In February, Hardeman tabled a petition at Queen’s Park calling for compensation “thereby, preventing beginning farmers from exiting the agriculture sector.”
Dombrowsky responded to the petition, on a deadline, last week.
An appeal process was in place for the federal cost of production program on which the provincial program’s payments were based, and farmers beginning in 2005 or 2006 “could have made a separate application for the federal cost of production payment,” she wrote.
If they’re enrolled in the current federal AgriStability program, producers in financial difficulty can also apply for interim payments under that program “if they have completed six months of their tax year.”
Hardeman says for producers “to be left right out in the cold like this, it is just unacceptable.”
He asserts Dombrowsky’s description of the program’s motivation differs from the details given in the province’s original announcement.
In the response, Dombrowsky states the program responded to “a long standing need reported by producers in the cattle, hogs and horticulture industries that had been most affected by low prices, high costs and declining margins.”
The ministry’s Dec. 14, 2007 news release states funding will go directly to farmers “to help them deal with the immediate challenges presented by current economic conditions and the long-term impacts of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).”
Hardeman says he will continue presenting petition signatures to the provincial legislature. He did not know how many he had received but noted they are coming from across the province. BF