The Ontario government is investing $5 million to help offset revenue losses for eligible agricultural and horticultural societies impacted by the necessary cancellation of fall fairs and exhibits during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This funding was announced as part of 2020 Ontario Budget, Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover. Details were provided today by Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
"Our agricultural and horticultural organizations play a vital role in communities across rural Ontario," said Minister Hardeman. "We want to preserve the rich tradition of fall fairs, exhibitions and activities that are key to rural economies and a mainstay of rural life in this province. This additional funding will help support these organizations during this difficult period so they can continue operating and contribute to our economic recovery."
This one-time $5 million in additional funding is in addition to the many actions the government has taken to support the agri-food sector during the outbreak.
Ontario is working to address the economic impacts that COVID-19 has posed to many of the organizations that make up the fabric of our communities. The province is now delivering an estimated $13.5 billion in total support for people and job creators as part of Ontario's Action Plan. This additional relief will ensure families, seniors, businesses and workers are supported through the second wave of COVID-19 and beyond.
"The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS), is grateful for the support from our Ontario Government," said Vince Brennan, Manager, Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. "This investment shows the confidence and appreciation they have for Ag Societies and their impact in Ontario, especially during these challenging times. This funding will undoubtedly help inspire and support our Ag Societies in their communities and rural way of life."
The provincial government is now providing a total of $45 billion over three years through Ontario's Action Plan to provide health resources to continue protecting people, deliver critical programs and tax measures to support communities and job creators, and prepare for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.
"On behalf of the Ontario Horticultural Association, I would like to thank Minister Hardeman and the Government of Ontario for their consideration of our organization and its 27,000 members, in all parts of the province, during this unprecedented time," said Katharine Smyth, President, Ontario Horticultural Association. "Many of our members in their societies have found this year to be very difficult and had concerns of how they could continue going forward. This announcement will help greatly in setting their minds at ease."
The Province also provides up to $1 million in annual funding to individual agricultural societies through grant payments enabled through the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act, 1988. Regulations under this Act require that agricultural societies must hold an agricultural exhibition, such as a fall fair in order to qualify for funding. Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions many of these events were canceled in 2020 and some societies were at risk of closing without this support.
In August, the government responded with a one-time change in eligibility requirements so that agricultural and horticultural societies could still receive their annual grant, an amount similar to what was received in the previous year.
To be eligible to receive funding, Ontario agricultural and horticultural societies must demonstrate financial hardship.
The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies is a provincial association representing over 200 agricultural societies from across the province.
For every dollar agricultural societies operate with, at least $4.54 is put into the local economy in Ontario.
The OHA is a volunteer charitable organization that encourages interest in gardening and related environmental issues representing over 280 horticultural societies from across the province.