Farmers devastated by flooding

Although the flooding happened three weeks ago, the nightmare continues for a dozen farming families around Pinewood.
When you call Wade and Kim Desserre’s home and get the answering machine, the first thing you hear is, “We are still cleaning up after the flood.”
They incurred an estimated $50-60,000 damage to their home and another $100,000 to their farm equipment. But so far, the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) hasn’t told them what they can do besides take pictures of the damage.
“Nobody’s dealing with us,” Wade Desserre lamented. “In town, people’s basements are flooded but they still go about their daily business.
“We’ve lost our livelihoods,” he stressed.
When asked if this could mean the end of his farm, their neighbour, Jason Lilley, simply replied, “Ultimately, yes.”
According to ODRAP criteria, eligible farming costs for coverage include clean-up of property for safety reasons or to provide access; restoring farmland to workable condition; fencing for livestock; and damage to building structure, moveables, essential farm equipment, and inventory.
Eligible damage includes clean-up of property for safety reasons as well as repair/replacement of essential farm buildings, including barns, out-buildings, equipment storage silos, grain and feed storage structures, and greenhouses.
Some eligible items include crops damaged due to disaster and damage as a result of repair crew work, and lost inventory such as dumped milk, eggs, greenhouse seedlings, and stored produce.
While the details of this compensation look good on paper, the farmers say ODRAP isn’t dealing with their emergency farming funding.
When they talk to the ODRAP office about immediate money, they’re sent to Social Services or the ODRAP workers talk about housing relief.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has come through with a funding advance to those who qualify, starting today (July 3), said spokesman Jim Miller.
“We had the $2,500 advance payment for emergency clean-up and repairs up front as an advance,” he noted.
But the dozen families in the Pinewood area have had mechanics in for more than a week to fix their machinery. The bills have started coming in but the assistance has not.
Ladislaw Vargyas, 81, has been farming this land since he arrived in Canada from Hungary on June 11, 1931—71 years to the day of last month’s flooding.
He had enough hay to get him almost completely through the winter but that was destroyed by the flooding.
Lilley estimated he lost $20,000 worth of feed for his cattle.
“You’re not going to forget us, are you, Howie?” he asked of NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton when he toured district farms on Saturday.
“I don’t think I’m going to forget something like this,” Hampton replied.
The farmers want to know why no one else has visited their farms.
“No one’s come out,” said Wade Desserre. “They’ve flown over and assessed from the air. [But] flying over will only give you a ballpark figure of the damage—I know they don’t know the magnitude of this.”
“We’re refugees,” agreed Lilley.
Not only were the roads closed and phones not working for a week but when Lilley phoned ODRAP, they told him to visit the office in Fort Frances to pick up an application.
When he told them his truck wasn’t working, they told him they’d mail him a form—but his mailbox is located six miles away.

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