Pandemic Impacts, Stress Being Felt on Ontario Farms

Ontario farmers have moved past the point of anticipating COVID-19-related challenges on their operations and are now living them firsthand - along with plenty of stress.

In the latest in a series of three surveys undertaken by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), 80% of the 620 respondents across the province reported experiencing a change in their operations in the wake of the pandemic. Meanwhile, two-thirds also indicated they were experiencing more stress and concern about their mental health due to COVID-19.

The financial impact continued to rank as the top concern for farmers, with 88% indicating that their farm businesses have suffered negative financial impacts. Other top concerns included a reduction in consumer spending, the potential of a global recession, trade issues and supply chain disruptions.

The survey showed 61% of respondents have experienced lost revenue and consumer spending, 57% are facing reduced cashflow and unable to conduct business as usual, 30% do not have the ability to expand their operations and 16% are facing financial struggles that will prevent them from just paying their bills. Sixty-two percent reported it would take more than three months for their farm to get back to business as usual if the pandemic ended today, up sharply from 41% in April and 22% in March.

The survey also turned up serious concern over shipping livestock to processing facilities, followed by the shipment of finished products and grain. Respondents further indicated significant impacts on the equine industry, maple syrup and honey sales, mushroom sales, loss of farmers’ market access and on-farm sales.

On the mental health side, many farmers reported taking steps to cope with the stress, as 36% of respondents indicated that they’ve reached out to family and friends, 33% have taken short breaks and 7% have sought professional help.

Access to valuable information has become increasingly important to ensure Ontario farmers have the tools and resources they need to be successful during the pandemic. The survey data shows that two-thirds of farmers utilize websites for finding information, while 63% find information through media channels such as TV, radio and podcasts and 30% of respondents connect with staff and specialists to get the latest updates.

Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.

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