Island farmers' Dorian crop relief application turned down

·3 min read

Hundreds of Island farmers whose crops were levelled in the fall of 2019 by post-tropical storm Dorian were told Friday that their application for millions of dollars in disaster relief funds has been turned down.

The application was put forward in June of 2020 by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture on behalf of 450 corn, fruit and livestock producers. The federation said the total amount of relief applied for under the AgriRecovery program was close to $12 million.

AgriRecovery is a joint federal-provincial aid program meant to cover "extraordinary costs" incurred by producers as a result of natural disasters.

"Hurricane Dorian caused extensive damage to grain crops, particularly corn, as it tore through [P.E.I.] and caused severe precipitation," said Jean-Sébastien Comeau, press secretary to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, in a statement to CBC.

To assess the extraordinary costs incurred by producers as a result, Comeau said a joint assessment was conducted by the federal and provincial governments.

That assessment, he said, "concluded that while producers faced extraordinary costs related to Dorian, they were not beyond their capacity to manage."

Depending on the losses, Comeau said farmers were able to "manage losses" through existing support programs like crop insurance and AgriStability, a program meant to support producers who experience a significant loss of income.

Submitted by the PEI Federation of Agriculture
Submitted by the PEI Federation of Agriculture

Robert Godfrey, executive director with the Federation of Agriculture, called the decision "extremely disappointing," and said he was in the process of informing producers who were part of the application.

We're going to be carrying that cost for a long time. It's money lost... You have to earn money to pay that back. — Robert MacDonald

Robert MacDonald of Belfast planted more than 1,000 acres of corn in 2019, and said 85 per cent of it was levelled by Dorian.

That cost him $200,000, which he's been carrying on his line of credit, he told CBC News on Friday.

"We're going to be carrying that cost for a long time," he said. "It's money lost; you can't make it back… You have to earn money to pay that back.

"So we'll be carrying it, just like every other farmer, on through the contortions with your bankers and your financial institutions trying to make this work."

Programs need review, says federation

Ron Maynard, the president of the Federation of Agriculture, said he was waiting for a detailed explanation as to why the funding was denied.

He disputed the assessment that he and other farmers who applied could recover losses through other programs, and pointed out the federation has been asking for a review of federal risk management programs, which he said need to be "modified and updated."

But AgriRecovery, he said, "is one that we thought was working relatively smoothly, so we're rather surprised at the results today."

He said the federation is trying to find out if it has any avenue to appeal.

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