10 April 1998

Cash aid given easily and fast

THE farm registration scheme introduced just five years ago was the key to emergency assistance payments for farmers affected by the ice storm.

"The government package of compensation was run up quite quickly in the wake of the storm and the farm registration programme was used as the basis for printing cheques to be claimed by applicants. The amount was decided quite arbitrarily at $1000 (£443) or $2000 (£886)," explains Stuart Leyenaar, agriculture and rural representative for Grenville County who works at OMAFRAs Kemptville office.

A simple one-page declaration was all that had to be completed to claim a cheque for immediate help and this did not preclude the claimant from seeking additional help later when proof of losses and receipts would be needed.

"The form was completed in duplicate and we had prepared labels which were supplied with the cheque. In 3-5min we had the information, signed the forms and marked the farmers off our list and they could walk away with a cheque but they may have queued for two hours to get it."

Some farmers claimed full emergency relief, some partial and Stuart believes 90% were happy with the way the money was paid. "But I can only liken the sum to putting a bandage on a broken arm," he says. "It will take $40,000-$100,000 to repair some barns and $1000 or $2000 doesnt touch it. Most of the barns that came down were fairly new and there were too many instances of inadequate materials or engineering used and this would be the owners responsibility."

Government assistance will only be available for losses not covered by insurance. Loss of future income because of disruption to milking or breeding programmes is not eligible.

"We dont know the total claimed yet, there are so many different problems at play. The federal government gives money and the provincial government uses it and adds more to it. Each level of government wants to maintain its own profile – it is bad enough in Ontario but especially so in Quebec – at the local level clients dont care where the money comes from. Ultimately it is the taxpayers who pay," says Stuart, who has worked for the ministry for 28 years and in Grenville County since 1984.

"I expect it will take until well into the summer to settle all claims. The biggest problem now is fencing which needs to be cleaned up and replaced. This is very labour-intensive and farmers want to get on the land in April/May. Fencing needs to be repaired before the cows can be put out to pasture."

The key to emergency payments was the farm registration scheme, says Stuart Leyenaar, agriculture and rural representative for Grenville County.

Ice storm observations

"It looked like a glass forest – you couldnt see the wood for ice."

"We had never needed generators we knew nothing about them. Now we shake ourselves and ask, why didnt we?"

The sound of trees cracking was like artillery fire.

Unmilked cows were roaring.

"Only 10% of farms inEastern Ontario had generators, yet most havea four-wheel-drive recreational vehicle costing around the same price," – ministry of agriculture.

No compensation given forlost production – termed "future profits".

I dipped the creek with a 5gal pail – 800-1000gal a day for six days and still the animals were thirsty.

"The storm would have been nothing 50 years ago – we didnt rely on power then."

Some trees carried 2t of ice

100,000 homes in Eastern Ontario were without electricity. 1600 linesmen worked round the clock fortwo weeks.

2.1m litres of milk was dumped.

It took 16 hours to milk 140 cows

All the romance of candle-light has gone.

Its too early to know the cost.