Equine industry requests gov’t aid

Equestrian sector representatives appeared before the House of Commons’ agriculture committee recently to request aid to help save horses producers can no longer afford to keep.

Equestrian Canada’s acting executive director, Richard Mongeau, said that while the agricultural sector was allowed to continue operating, most equine operations don’t fall under the definition of a farm due to a lack of farm income.

“Equine farms have continued to bear the costs to care for their horses with no money coming in,” he said. “Without some immediate relief, many more animals will be destroyed and multi-generational rural Canadian businesses will close their doors for good.”

Kristy House, manager of welfare and identification for Equestrian Canada, said 60 percent of member businesses were out of resources to maintain the horses’ care and welfare, forcing owners to cull and euthanize healthy, working horses.

They estimate it would cost $17.2 million each month to support at-risk working horses, and are proposing the federal government cover 75 percent, or $12.9 million, of the cost.

“This coverage would be a huge help in offsetting the challenges these farms are facing right now,” said House.

At the June 5 meeting, MPs from each of the federal parties heard from affected farmers about the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.

Catherine St-Georges, a marketing consultant with Union des Producteurs Agricoles, said in French that consumers are recognizing calls to buy local.

“We’re sensing enthusiasm for buying local products, so it’s important to capitalize on that. Agritourism and culinary tourism also offer potential,” she said. “Since Canadians will probably be spending more time in Canada this year, there is an opportunity to develop those markets and take advantage of those potential visitors.”

St-Georges pitched to members a program designed to help build local markets and help build online sales for producers.

Parliamentarians on the agriculture committee finished their review of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on June 17.

Ted Hutten, owner of Hutten Family Farm in Nova Scotia, said when the farmers markets responsible for most of his sales closed, he had to pivot to a different business model.

“What I did was I had a small community-supported agricultural online sales business, and I expanded that business substantially and moved the bulk of my business into online sales,” he said.

“We noticed a massive increase in demand. It’s been challenging, but we have been able to move all of our product.”

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