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Drought relief initiative delivered over 5.8M pounds of hay to northwestern Ontario farmers

Provincial initiative led by Beef Farmers of Ontario has now concluded

More than 5.8 million pounds of hay were delivered to farmers in northwestern Ontario this summer through a provincial initiative to assist with drought relief.

Launched by the province in July, the Northwestern Ontario Livestock Emergency Assistance Initiative was aimed at farmers in Rainy River and Kenora who were in need of feed for their cattle, after their own crops were decimated by a severe drought that plagued the region through most of the season.

The $2-million funding relief package included a little over $1 million for the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) to address feed shortages through the region.

Now that the program has concluded, the BFO is reporting that the initiative provided more than 5.8 million pounds of hay to 129 livestock farmers to feed more than 11,000 head of beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats in the Rainy River and Kenora Districts.

“On behalf of our members in the northwest, we are so grateful for the response from Minister (Lisa) Thompson and the Government of Ontario to help Ontario’s livestock farmers navigate the drought of 2021,” Rob Lipsett, BFO’s president, said in an Oct. 14 news release.

“When we work together, we can accomplish great things and we sincerely appreciate the efforts of all of our partners and donors who played pivotal roles in providing an incredible amount of hay to the producers of Rainy River and Kenora in such a short time.”

BFO said that, over the course of 60 days, the hay was transported on 120 trucks and by CN Rail over a collective 200,000 kilometres from regions in southern and northeastern Ontario.

Outside of the provincial initiative, fellow farmers also donated forages, sold surplus hay, and provided more than $64,000 in financial donations, which was used to purchase and transport additional feed for the region.

A full list of those who contributed to the effort is available here.

“I very much appreciate the impact this drought has had on farmers, as well as their candor when discussing this issue. That is why our government acted quickly to provide the emergency assistance to those affected by it,” Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said in the release.

“Certainty is paramount when people work 365 days a year to produce quality food close to home, so when the farmers in northwestern Ontario needed assistance, we listened and took appropriate action. This emergency initiative was a great success thanks to BFO and we are grateful for their willingness to partner with our government.”

The Beef Farmers of Ontario represents 19,000 beef farmers in Ontario by advocating in the areas of sustainability, animal health and care, environment, food safety, and domestic and export market development. BFO’s vision is to help foster a sustainable and profitable beef industry, and have Ontario beef recognized as an outstanding product by our consumers.