QUEEN'S PARK, Ontario – Leaders of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association and Ontario Pork applauded the Ontario government's decision to establish a new risk management program (RMP) to give farmers the insurance to protect against market fluctuations beyond their control.

"[The March 28] announcement is great news for Ontario farmers, rural communities and everyone involved in agriculture and agri-food," said Curtis Royal, president, Ontario Cattlemen's Association and owner of Royal Farms in Simcoe County. "The establishment of a permanent risk management insurance program will give our farmers the tools they need to sustain their operations so they can continue to provide high quality, locally grown food to Ontario consumers.”

"The fact that the McGuinty government decided to act during these tough fiscal times and without the participation of the federal government, makes this announcement that much more significant to Ontario farmers," said Wilma Jeffray, chair of Ontario Pork and a farmer in Bruce County.

Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell was thanked by Ontario Pork and the Ontario Cattlemen's Association for her unwavering support for RMP and said they looked forward to working with the minister over the coming months to finalize the program design, including an implementation plan that ensures farmers get the immediate support they require in 2011 from this insurance-based program.

Ontario's beef and pork farmers have made the establishment of the RMP insurance program their top priority and launched an unprecedented campaign to ensure MPPs understood how important this program was to the future success of their industry, the creation of agri-food jobs and Ontario's supply of local food products. This campaign complemented the efforts of the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition (OASC) of which both organizations are active participants.

The campaign is also focused on the federal government, requesting them to partner with the industry and Ontario government in establishing the insurance program. The federal government has not yet agreed to participate in this initiative.

"We encourage the federal government to follow Ontario's lead and participate in the establishment of this program to ensure Ontario farmers receive all of the benefits and protections a full RMP would provide," Jeffray said.

"Entering into a federal election in the spring, I urge all our members to pressure their federal candidates to commit to supporting Ontario farmers' number one request by funding this program," Royal stated.

Since 2003, Ontario's productive beef cow herd declined 18.4%, while the productive sow herd has declined over 20% since 2007. These declines are the result of several factors including, BSE, H1N1 and a high Canadian dollar, bringing increased competition from imports.

Based largely on the successful model implemented by the Government of Ontario for the Grains and Oilseeds industry, the program proposed by farmers would offset the difference between the current market price and the average long-term cost of production for local Ontario farmers.

Designed originally as a three-way partnership, on a voluntary basis Ontario farmers would pay premiums representing 30% of the long-term cost of the insurance program with the federal and provincial governments contributing the remainder in accordance with the traditional 60/40 (federal/provincial) split.

In the absence of federal government participation, it is envisioned both the premiums and the program benefits would be scaled back accordingly.