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Ontario government making more agricultural societies eligible for funds

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: With many local agricultural fairs having been forced to cancel their 2020 operations or turning to virtual events due to COVID-19, the province of Ontario is easing funding eligibility rules for agricultural societies. On Thursday, August 20th, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman and MPP Laurie Scott were at the Lindsay exhibition site to announce a temporary change to eligibility rules for agricultural society funding, meant to offset losses from the inability for these organizations to hold events. “While our government is following through on its plan to get Ontario back on track, we have to ensure we support institutions like the Lindsay fair that have a deep and rich history in this province,” Minister Hardeman said. The minister then explained the province is temporarily removing the requirement for agricultural societies to operate fall fairs in order to be eligible, just for this year. “For this year, our government will amend the rules that [usually] require agricultural societies to operate their fall fairs in order to receive provincial grants. By changing the rule for this year, we were able to provide nearly $1 million in funding that agriculture and horticulture societies would otherwise have been unable to receive [during] this COVID virus. This funding will help relieve some of the burdens some organizations experienced from cancelling their fairs,” Minister Hardeman explained. Lindsay exhibition general manager Harry Stoddart talked about the importance of this funding and this announcement. “This announcement is helpful in starting to address the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on our income statements,” he said. “We’re projecting a revenue shortfall for this facility of just about $1 million between the loss in revenue from the Lindsay Exhibition, and the various events that have been cancelled and will continue to be cancelled in the fall. We’ve worked hard to react to that. We’ve trimmed almost $800,000 out of our budget through staff layoffs and reducing as many costs as we can. But, we are still facing a cash-flow shortfall on the year at about $200,000.” MPP Scott explained the importance of assisting these organizations. “This year, as we all deal with the unprecedented and enormous challenges brought about by COVID-19, Ontario’s agricultural and horticultural organizations have felt the strain from cancelled fairs, events and activities. These organizations play a hugely important role in making rural Ontario what it is, and teaching Ontarians about farming, agriculture and the rural way of life.”

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