Projects seek to strengthen farm biosecurity

Ashley Brown, of Browndale Farm, north of Paris, speaks with Ernie Hardeman, Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, at the family farm on Monday. Vincent Ball

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PARIS Matt Robillard is in the business of helping farmers spread manure not disease.

Matt Robillard runs of Soil Solutions Plus, a St. George company that helps farmers with manure management and environmental planning. Vincent Ball jpg, BR

So, Robillard, of Soil Solutions Plus in St. George, is grateful for the help he is getting from provincial and federal governments to safeguard the farms he visits in Brant County and across southwestern Ontario.

“I go to a lot of farms with my vehicles and you never know what you might pick up,” Robillard said Monday. “I could become a huge vector – transmitter of disease – and not even know it.

“That’s why it’s really important that my vehicle is clean when I visit a farm.”

Robillard, with the help of a $15,343 boost from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, is installing equipment to power-wash company vehicles to mitigate the risk of inadvertently transferring materials that could be dangerous to farm animals.

“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time and now I’m able to move forward,” Robillard said. “It’s an important step for the company and I can visit farms knowing that we’ve taken steps to ensure our vehicles are clean.”

Robillard made the comments during a visit to Browndale Farm, where Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke about the effort to strengthen bio-security to protect the agricultural industry. Both provincial and federal governments have contributed to three projects at Browndale Farm, a family-run dairy operation north of Paris.

Browndale Farm received just over $82,800 to build a laneway to define controlled and restricted access zones. As well, wash pads, with a pressure-washing system, were installed.

And Browndale also has been approved for up to $50,000 for additional laneway work to further reduce the risk of transferring diseased materials to its farm animals.

The money comes from the cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which has contributed more than $2 million for more than 90 bio-security project.

The program is delivered by Hardeman’s ministry and will continue to March 2023. The next application intake for assistance through the program takes place late this fall.

“The health and welfare of our farmed animals are shared responsibilities among the government, farmers, the broader agri-food industry and anyone who visits a farm,” the minister said. “Investing in bio-security projects like these help protect our farmers, their animals and the economy by reducing the risk of visitors to the farm accidentally introducing and spreading diseases and pests.”

He pointed to the outbreak of African swine fever in China as an example of the importance of bio-security. The virus is capable of killing any infected animal and has devastated China’s swine industry, Hardeman said.

“Two of the most important things in agriculture are the weather and bio-security,” Hardeman said. “We can’t control the weather.

“But all of us have a responsibility to do what we can to protect farms from infectious diseases and unwanted pests.”

The Ontario agri-food sector supports more than 837,000 jobs across the province and contributes more than $47.5 billion annually to the provincial economy.

Hardeman was joined by Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma and Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios at the funding announcement.

Meanwhile, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, also issued a statement regarding the importance of measures taken by Browndale Farm and Soil Solutions Plus.

“These investments to enhance bio-security measures will help the sector adopt the highest standards in risk mitigation and support the sustainability and productivity of Ontario farms,” Bibeau said.