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Commentary submitted by the Beef Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Pork and Veal Farmers of Ontario

As politicians on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border shout to either protest or protect the future of supply management, Ontario’s livestock farmers not protected by quotas are sounding the alarm. We are the ones already paying a heavy price for U.S. President Trump’s global trade wars.

Lost in the media coverage and political decision-making surrounding NAFTA trade negotiations is the fact that Ontario’s pork, beef and veal farmers are in the midst of a growing crisis. While not a direct target, Ontario’s livestock farmers are collateral damage in President Trump’s trade wars.

President Trump’s trade wars threaten the livelihood of our livestock farmers, particularly:

  • the disruption of U.S. beef and pork exports to China and Mexico caused by escalating tariffs;
  • the enormous drop in North American livestock prices caused by that disruption; and
  • President Trump’s decision to grant American farmers a massive $12 billion (USD) aid package. Which puts our farmers at a substantial disadvantage as they try to compete on both sides of the border.

  • Financial losses are adding up for local farmers. Over the past six weeks, Ontario pork farmers alone have suffered weekly losses in the millions of dollars. The numbers for Ontario’s beef farmers are equally staggering and Ontario’s veal farmers are not far behind. Simple math tells you that Ontario’s livestock farmers will be hard-pressed to continue to supply locally grown food to Ontarians when they are losing over $40 per hog and more than $300 per head of cattle sold. Very soon Ontario livestock farmers will be forced to decide whether they are willing to hold out for an end to these political storms or if they will need to walk away from the family farm for good.

    Sadly, even if a new NAFTA deal is signed today, the damage has already been done. Weeks of losses have created a fiscal hole so large that many of our farmers will not be able to get out of it without huge sacrifice. Our challenges won’t end there. A NAFTA deal also does not solve the turmoil brought on by the U.S.-China trade dispute and the uneven playing field created when President Trump handed our American competitors billions of dollars in aid.

    We will be sharing these concerns directly with Premier Ford and Minister Hardeman at the International Plowing Match this week. We will call on both the provincial and the federal governments to work with us on an urgent basis to help Ontario’s livestock farmers. Farmers who are trying to survive this growing crisis.



    From a news release

    Aside from some last-minute touch-ups, the 2018 International Plowing Match & Rural Expo, Chatham-Kent (IPM 2018) site is almost ready to open its gates on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 8:30 a.m.

    The Ontario Plowmen’s Association, about 50 IPM 2018 community committees, and 1,000 volunteers are preparing to welcome more than 80,000 visitors from throughout Ontario and beyond between Tuesday, Sept. 18 and Saturday, Sept. 22.

    Daily Event Hours run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and daily admission costs $20 per Adult (age 16+); $5 per Child (ages 6-15); and Children age 5 and younger are admitted for FREE.

    The site is just to the northeast of the Village of Pain Court, in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent at 7579 Pain Court Line, Pain Court, Chatham-Kent, Ontario N0P 1Z0 (Tented City: Latitude 42.410285, Longitude -82.280135).

    The 2018 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, Chatham-Kent, will kick off Tuesday morning with a parade on-site starting at 10:30 a.m., immediately followed by an Opening Ceremony featuring leaders from all levels of government, IPM 2018 leaders, music and Tobe Cobe Jr, the Official Mascot of IPM.

    The IPM’s five-day schedule of events and attractions will showcase Chatham-Kent’s important agriculture, business and tourism activities. It will feature plowing competitions, awards, demonstrations, antique farm equipment displays, hundreds of exhibitors of all kinds, and many food vendors.

    Popular attractions will include rodeo, Team Farmall Dancing Tractors, the Canadian Cowgirls Precision Drill Team and a lineup of music acts such as the Canadian Celtic rock favourites MUDMEN.

    Guinness World Record attempts will include the Largest Egg and Spoon Race, the Largest Caesar Cocktail, Most People Bobbing for Apples at One Time, and World’s Tallest Sugar Cube Structure.

    All the information, schedules and a site map are in the Official IPM 2018 Show Guide, available on the International Plowing Match website.



    From FCC Express
    By Owen Roberts

    Record corn and soybean harvests are forecasted in some parts of southern Ontario after a dramatic turnaround in growing conditions through August.

    Earlier this summer, spotty and isolated precipitation – often in the same field, and certainly in the same township – had producers expecting mostly average crops.

    But then came August, with its combination of above-average temperatures, humidity and evenly spread rainfall. In the Kitchener area, for example, temperatures dipped below the average for just two days. They were two degrees Celsius higher than average.
    That’s a great one-two punch for producing yield – and that’s exactly what’s happened, in fields throughout southern and southwestern Ontario.

    “It looks like a bumper crop,” says John Nooyen, a producer from Chatham, Ont. “I’ve never seen soybeans and corn like this before. It could be the biggest year ever for us.”

    Even though he planted corn late because of unfavourable spring conditions, he’s expecting yields 10 per cent higher than last year, which were already an impressive 227 bushels per acre.

    And he believes some of his soybean fields could yield around 70 bushels per acre.

    “It’s awesome,” he says.

    Henk Pastink of Henria Holsteins near Conn, Ont., says his farm’s corn crop recovered well from mild heat stress in June.

    “We were pretty lucky, given the hit and miss showers in this area,” he says. “The corn crop now looks better than we’ve seen in the last few years, with all the heat and humidity and rain that eventually came on a regular basis. It pulled the corn out of drought stress. Big cobs, big yields.”

    Pastink is further enthused about his hay crop, which was likewise challenged by spotty rain at the start of summer.

    “Our second cut was significantly lower yielding, as can be expected from the lack of rain,” he says. “At the time, we merged a 100-acre farm into eight windrows because of the lack of volume.”

    But the crop improved later in July and August. This week, he’s finishing his third cut, which has ended up being a good crop.

    Dale Cowan, senior agronomist with AGRIS and Wanstead co-ops, says many other producers are likewise experiencing upbeat results.

    “We averted a disaster,” he says. “Back in June it was dry, then followed by intense rain, up to six inches in a single event, in isolated locations. But in August, things changed and now everyone has received the rain they need, along with the hot weather.”

    Disease pressure that might normally be associated with wet weather was staved off. Aphids and white mould were present in some fields, but by the time they arrived, plants had already matured.

    As a result, the yield was unaffected. Cowan predicts record averages of 180 to 185 bushels per acre for corn, about 10-15 bushels per acre higher than the historic average. Soybeans could average out in the low 50 bushels per acre range and beat the last record of 48 bushels per acre, set in 2012.

    “The yield is set, nothing can change that,” says Cowan. “It’s just a matter of getting good harvest weather.”



    It seems as though the old adage, “big crops get bigger,” would apply to this year’s corn and soybean crops in the United States. In its latest crop production estimates report on Sept. 12, the United States Department of Agriculture called for a record soybean crop and the highest yield on record for corn.

    Corn production is forecast at 14.8 billion bushels, up 2 per cent from August and up 2 per cent from last year. Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, yields are expected to average 181.3 bushels per acre, up 2.9 bushels from the August forecast and up 4.7 bushels from 2017. The USDA says if realized, this will be the highest yield on record for the U.S.

    Area harvested for grain is forecast at 81.8 million acres, unchanged from the August forecast, but down 1 per cent from 2017.

    Soybean production is forecast at a record 4.69 billion bushels, up 2 per cent from August and up 7 per cent from last year. Based on Sept. 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record high 52.8 bushels per acre, up 1.2 bushels from last month and up 3.7 bushels from last year.

    Area for harvest in the U.S. is forecast at 88.9 million acres, unchanged from August but down 1 per cent from 2017.



    Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
    By Mark Kunkel, OFA Director

    Some long-awaited relief is on the way for Ontario livestock farmers with the promise of changes coming to the Ontario Wildlife Damage Compensation Program (OWDCP). Predators are a constant threat to farm animals, especially cattle and sheep, and the current compensation process was an aggravation for Ontario farmers.

    On September 10 the Honourable Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) announced his government’s commitment to program improvements in the coming months, in consultation with industry stakeholders. One change that’s effective immediately is the Farm Business Registration (FBR) eligibility change. This was a frustrating technicality for claims submissions, and now Ontario farmers who pay their FBR registration by September 1 will remain eligible for claims.

    The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), along with the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) and Ontario Sheep Farmers (OSF) have been asking for changes to the OWDCP for a number of years and are encouraged by the Minister’s announcement. OFA has heard the frustration that members have experienced, and we’ve submitted suggested revisions to the Ontario government as recent as earlier this year. OFA, along with BFO and OSF, also participated in OMAFRA-led program evaluation focus groups held earlier in 2018.

    Our recommendations include expanding the acceptable evidence of damage, including a new OMAFRA extension service for cases in question and shortening the amount of time an investigator must respond to a claim inspection. OFA believes revisions also need to be made to the appeals process, along with the Fair Market Value formula used to determine compensation levels. Farmers are always proactive about predator prevention, and OFA also recommends program funding to implement preventative measures.

    OFA is encouraged by the direction of the government’s proposed changes to OWDCP, but the final details have yet to be determined. We will continue to work closely with the government as revisions are made and throughout the proposed consultation process. Ontario farmers must be heard throughout this process. OFA encourages members who have concerns or suggestions to improve the program to contact OFA directly.



    Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
    By Marie Versteeg, CFFO Manager of Executive Board & Committees

    Last week, the federal government released the What We Heard Report, outlining the results of its nation-wide consultation on a Food Policy for Canada. In 2017, Canadians offered an overwhelming amount of feedback through regional meetings, a national summit, written submissions, and an online survey (completed by 45,000 people). There is no confirmed release date for the final policy.

    Issues covered during the consultation period were categorized under four major themes:

  • food security (increasing access to affordable, nutritious, and safe food);
  • improving health and food safety;
  • the environment (conserving our soil, water and air); and
  • economic growth (growing more high-quality food).

  • As you’d expect, the report notes that “input was wide-ranging, broad-based, and not always consistent.” Still, readers of the report will find some interesting takeaways.

    The consultation process showed strong public support for vigorous policy on all four major themes. Participants stressed the interconnectedness of these themes, and recommendations included setting up an external advisory body to improve coordination on food policy across government departments and programs.

    On the environmental front, feedback suggests strong support for farmers’ stewardship practices. Consultation participants prioritized “increasing education, information-sharing, and innovation to support sustainable practices” and “ensuring agricultural land preservation.”

    Soil health and water supply and quality management were also highlighted. Some participants recommended “a national water management system” to oversee research and innovation, incentivization for stewardship practices, and water quality monitoring. They also asked for reduced uses of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics to alleviate pressures on our soil and water systems.

    On the economic front, participants urged government to support growth at the local and regional levels. They encouraged policies to support small- and medium-sized operations as well as new entrants and under-represented groups, such as youth, women, and Indigenous peoples.

    In fact, if a common thread could be found anywhere within the report, it would be support for local and regional food: this concern cropped up in discussions on food security, health and food safety, the environment, and economic growth. The topic intersected all four major themes.

    Interestingly, the concerns of the general public may diverge from those of government in some areas. For example, priorities for online survey participants (71.5% of whom belong to the general public) tended to reflect their needs as consumers, with affordable food prices a top priority(1) and growth of the agrifood industry at the bottom.

    Survey respondents “were less concerned with exports, trade, or the Canadian sector’s global reputation.” Nonetheless, the report confirms that the food policy will be influenced by the government’s goal of growing Canada’s ag sector to meet the target of $75B in agri-food exports by 2025, (2) up from $55B in 2015.

    Some consultation participants cautiously warned that the federal government’s focus on the economic growth of the sector may be in direct conflict with the environmental aims of the food policy.

    The CFFO sees a policy that balances social, environmental, and economic growth as both desirable and possible outcome. But for this goal to be successful, it’s vital that the architects of the Food Policy for Canada heed popular calls to support regional food production, research and innovation, and incentives for sustainable practices.

    (1) According to the “What We Heard Report: A Food Policy for Canada,” online “qualitative survey comments focused on increasing access to affordable food (47 per cent) over any of the other themes in A Food Policy for Canada.”

    (2) As the “What We Heard Report” notes, this goal is laid out in the Barton Report. See “The Path to Prosperity – Resetting Canada’s Growth Trajectory: Executive Summary,” 2016.