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Grain farmers of Ontario 'disappointed' with Canada’s decision on Russian tariffs

Canadian farmers had hoped they would be getting a straight refund for tariffs they were forced to pay after the war in Ukraine started in 2022.

In the federal budget for 2023, the Canadian government instead opted to put $34.1 million into the On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF).

A spokesperson for minister of agriculture and agri-food Canada told CTV News Windsor that amount is “equivalent” to tariffs collected on fertilizers.

Before the spring cropping season in 2022, Canadian farmers purchased their fertilizer primarily from Russia, one of the worlds’ biggest producers, according to the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO).

Then the war in Ukraine started and Canada levied sanctions on Russian imports, including agricultural fertilizers.

“I think it was an unintended consequence,” said Brendan Byrne, an Essex County farmer who is also the board chair of the GFO. “Having something like this in place isn't to the benefit of Canadians and it's really not hurting those that are intended to be hurt.”

Byrne said some farmers paid as little as a few hundred dollars in additional fees while others were out $50,000 - $60,000 in unexpected costs they had to pay.

“We’re very disappointed that at the end of the day the farmers weren't looked after in terms of getting it back in their pocket,” said Byrne.

According to the ministry, the $34.1 million will be divided up between five agricultural agencies to disburse to farmers.

The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) will help “redistribute the funding to help producers adopt and implement immediate on-farm best management practices in the area of nitrogen and fertilizer management,” the spokesperson explained.

Byrne feels it was a “political” climate change decision by Ottawa that puts all the work now back on farmers.

“If you already paid $40,000 in tariff and now you have to go access another program and spend more money to get some back? It really wasn't creating an equal playing field for that farmer that paid,” says Byrne.

“The funding for OFCAF goes to support farmers implementing projects that support enhanced in-field nitrogen management practices, cover cropping and rotation grazing of livestock,” Angela Straathof, program director of OSCIA told CTV News Windsor in an email.

Straathof said other similar funding programs work on a cost-share model whereby farmers can qualify to have 65 per cent of a project covered by the OFCAF with the farmer picking up the remaining 35 per cent.

As of Tuesday, Straathof said the OSCIA does not yet have the information on how the fertilizer tariff money will be redistributed to Canadian farmers.

She said it will however go to “support farmers implementing enhanced nitrogen fertilizer management strategies.” Top Stories

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