By Nathan Stevens
August 5, 2011
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs recently announced that the 30-year old wildlife damage compensation program has finally been updated. This has been an important issue for members of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario over the last number of years, and as an organization we are pleased that this could finally be updated. This is a solid step forward in balancing the broad number of goals desired by society involving the rural landscape.
The fact of the matter is that there is only one rural landscape, but a wide array of wants and needs that must be met. Biodiversity is a valuable goal that society believes is worthy of effort while growing food is an essential goal for everyone. Unfortunately, these two goals are not always in harmony with each other. Therefore, improving the compensation program for farmers helps balance out these goals in a reasonable way.
The highlights of the current program include an expanded list of both the wildlife species that cause harm and an increased livestock listing for compensation when the two forces come into contact with one another in a negative way. The amount that producers receive has been updated to be more reflective of today’s prices.
In addition, the program addresses some of the other needs that have developed over time, including a $30 reimbursement for each claim a municipality processes, a $50,000 fund for strategic investments with industry to better understand how to prevent agriculture-wildlife conflicts, and a commitment to review the program every two years to ensure it is up-to-date.
Moving forward, there are other concerns that need to be addressed regarding the interaction of wildlife with agriculture. Can crop insurance be used as the tool to deal with damage to crops by wildlife or is another tool going to be required? What is the proper balance to find regarding predator controls – a limited hunt of problem animals or a less targeted bounty to meet an overall population target?
The CFFO has been strong in its support for farmers in the area of predation over the last number of years. The update of this program is a significant step forward for farmers that have to deal with wildlife damage. It is also a step forward in balancing the wide variety of goals that are being pursued in a limited rural landscape.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.