Ernie Eves, Ontario's Premier and Helen Johns, Minister of Agriculture and Food, announced on Friday July 25 the Ontario government will invest an additional $17.5 million to help Ontario beef producers.
At the same time Premier Eves called on the federal government to do more to help the beef industry, which is struggling with the impact of mad cow disease.
The support will aid producers because losses are mounting and the rural economy is at stake. Eves asked the federal government to boost its funding by an additional $26.25 million to Ontario beef producers a 60 per cent share of the recovery effort. As well he called on the Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to personally take the lead in pressing other countries to reopen their markets to Canadian beef the only lasting solution to this devastating problem.
The $17.5 million is in addition to the $35 million the Eves government has already committed to the Canada-Ontario BSE Recovery Program, to which provincial and federal governments contribute 40 and 60 per cent respectively. The announcement brings Ontario's total commitment to $52.5 million.
Ontario has Canada"s second-largest beef industry, with 20,000 producers generating $1.1 billion in sales annually. Since export markets closed after a single Alberta cow tested positive for mad cow disease in late May, Ontario beef producers have lost more than $100 million in export sales, or nearly $2 million a day.
At the Annual Premiers' Conference in Charlottetown earlier this month, all premiers stressed that there is no scientific basis for maintaining the ban on cattle and beef products from Canada. The premiers agreed to seek the help of individual states in getting the border reopened.
To help fulfil that commitment, Johns will tour the northeastern United States to explain the situation to industry and government officials. Eves will also spearhead a meeting between the Ontario Cattlemen's Association and Ontario grocery retailers to discuss efforts to promote Ontario beef.
The government will consult with the industry on how the funds will be allocated. Additional details on this program will be available shortly.