The province of Ontario is providing nearly $1 million to assist organizations that had to cancel fall activities and events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In Lindsay on Thursday morning, Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said the government of Ontario is expanding eligibility for agriculture societies to apply for funding to help offset the financial losses due to the cancellation of fall fairs, exhibitions and activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In previous years, organizations could only qualify for provincial funding if they operated fall fairs, Hardeman noted.
“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario,” he said. “We know that the decision to cancel their fairs and events was a difficult but important one in order to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We are providing this funding to help continue operations and relieve some of the burden they are experiencing during this difficult time.”
The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS) has reported that over 175 fall fairs and events have been cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Among the events impacted by the pandemic is the annual Lindsay Exhibition, which has shifted to a few online competitions with competitors entering digital stills or videos of livestock and cattle and home crafts.
Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, says the funding will help the agriculture sector recover.
“Our horticultural and agricultural societies have educated and entertained us on the importance of agriculture for more than a century,” said Scott. “This funding will help support this important sector of Ontario’s economy as the province recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.”
The OAAS represents more than 200 agricultural societies. Its manger Vince Brennan says the organization is grateful for the province’s support.
“This investment shows the confidence and appreciation that the Ontario government has for our over 200 Ontario Agricultural Societies, their members and volunteers and the significant contribution they make to their communities and rural life in Ontario,” he said.
Charles Freeman, vice-president of the Ontario Horticultural Association, echoed the sentiment for all of its affiliate societies and clubs. The OHA represents 280 horticultural societies in Ontario.
“Ontario’s continuing support of the 27,000 plus membership across the province is appreciated by everyone involved with the OHA,” said Freeman.
Hardeman notes the province provides some funding to individual agricultural societies through grant payments enabled through the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act. Under the regulations, the year an agricultural society is paid a grant it must hold an agricultural exhibition, such as a fall fair.
“The COVID-19 restrictions have prevented the events that would help to meet this criteria in 2020, with some societies at risk of closing their organizations without this support,” he said.