More than half of Ontario grain farmers fear business won’t survive pandemic

ONTARIO – Grain Farmers of Ontario, the province’s largest commodity organization representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers, shared the results of a new study showing grain farmers want the government to help them manage the risk of COVID-19 economic impacts and help them compete with U.S. farmers.

In a recent poll of Ontario grain farmers, 76 per cent say they cannot compete with U.S. farmers who are receiving subsidies, which help them sell grain at low costs that Ontario farmers cannot afford. Since the onset of the pandemic, President Donald Trump has committed over $30 billion to U.S. farmers driving down grain prices.   

“This survey clearly indicated that 80 per cent of our farmer members want the Canadian government to level the playing field with U.S. farmers. Ontario grain farmers are not asking for bailouts, they just want risk programs to be properly funded and managed,” Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Markus Haerle said in statement released today (July 23). “Trump’s subsidies are driving down global grain prices, creating an uneven playing field for Ontario grain farmers.”

The poll, conducted in mid-July, also showed that 55 per cent fear that they won’t be able to cover the cost of production this year.

“We appreciate that Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman committed to addressing the shortfall in the Risk Management Program,” Haerle said. “That’s only half the support that is needed.  Farmers need the federal government to commit to restoring the program to levels cut by Stephen Harper’s government so that they can have the risk management tools they need to manage their businesses through this very uncertain time.”

Some important highlights from the survey:

  • Four out of 10 grain farmers in Ontario are expecting a reduction in sales
  • U.S. farmer subsidies are top of mind for Ontario grain farmers with 76 per cent of grain farmers saying that they cannot compete with U.S. farmers and those levels of subsidies
  • Eight out of 10 Ontario grain farmers are asking for support to match the U.S. farmer

The concerns raised by Ontario grain farmers in this survey underscore the need for governments to fix business risk management (BRM) programs immediately. Grain Farmers of Ontario supports Premier Doug Ford and Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman, in their efforts with the federal government to improve AgriStability coverage for farmers.

AgriStability, an existing BRM program, was cut in 2012, leaving grain and oilseed farmers without price insurance they can rely on. Restoring the coverage to 85 per cent and eliminating the reference margin limit would be a significant improvement to the program.

In May 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $252 million in COVID-19 support for farmers, none of which was earmarked to help grain farmers, but he said this was just the first round of support. (Grain Farmers of Ontario disappointed by lack of support from federal government) Grain farmers have waited for months with no signs of the promised additional support from the government.

“The Grain Farmers of Ontario is committed to continuing the push for better BRM programs for our farmer-members to help ease their concerns, and we look forward to continuing our discussions with the federal and provincial governments,” Haerle said.