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Grain Farmers of Ontario issues open letter about DON in corn

The Grain Farmers of Ontario issued an open letter to producers on Nov. 9 in response to Ontario's outbreak of DON in grain corn.

November 12, 2018  By Grain Farmers of Ontario

Within the letter Markus Haerle, chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, states that there will be a meeting of industry leaders this coming week to address some of the issues related to high DON corn. Some of the issues for Ontario corn producers include cash flow and revenue loss, available markets for high DON corn, clarity from Agricorp on crop insurance, and testing protocols. 

A meeting among growers, elevator operators, feed industry representatives, government officials and ethanol producers took place in late October. The Grain Farmers of Ontario states that ideas from that meeting, such as storage solutions for farmers without storage or the possibility of ethanol companies doing high DON runs, are currently in the process of being implemented. 

Ontario’s 2018 Grain Corn Ear Mould and DON survey found 60 per cent of samples tested low for DON, a increase from last year. Around 25 per cent of all samples have a DON concentration of 5 parts per million (ppm) and greater, and some producers have been reporting even higher levels, making 2018 a standout year for DON in corn.

Below is the full letter: 

An Open Letter to our Farmer-Members

We are facing one of the most severe outbreaks of DON in corn that we have ever seen, and some areas of the province are being hit especially hard. I understand the feeling of frustration that you, our farmer-members, have with this issue. You want to know that Grain Farmers of Ontario is at work on your behalf, and you want to know what we are doing.

Grain Farmers of Ontario has made this issue its top priority. We consider this issue at a catastrophic level at this point and it is only getting worse and we have all hands on deck engaging with industry, Agricorp, and the provincial and federal governments.

I want to dispel any rumours that Grain Farmers of Ontario’s actions or decisions have stalled any step of the selling, buying, or insurance process. This is untrue. I specifically made sure that no barriers had been created through our work. There is nothing anyone is waiting for from us.

We are hearing several issues that need to be addressed:

– Cash flow and revenue loss
– Markets for high DON corn
– Clarity from Agricorp on crop insurance
– Testing protocols

Work to address these issues has been ongoing at Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Both Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario, and I have been in regular contact with Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. On November 5, the Minister came out to the field of District 7 (Waterloo, Oxford) Director Kevin Armstrong to see firsthand just how devastating DON is to our farmer-members. The Minister was receptive to working with us to find solutions and ways to help farmers.

As a result of our time with Minister Hardeman, the Minister is convening a meeting of industry leaders, including Grain Farmers of Ontario, in the next week. The corn industry has a finely tuned value chain from field to fork or fuel, and an issue like this has impact at all levels. The minister is asking each person to come to the meeting with three creative ideas to address the issue.

I know that there are frustrations around the insurance process, and we continue to recommend to everyone that they engage Agricorp as soon as possible.

We are in discussions with Agricorp as they assess the situation, and we are pressing them on questions related to crop insurance including:

– What is the definition of an unmarketable crop?
– When are fields going to be written off?
– How will the salvage benefit work?

We all know that AgriStability is not going to help and we are exploring other relief options for revenue loss, including AgriRecovery.

Grain Farmers of Ontario took the initiative to work with OMAFRA to host a meeting in late October with our industry partners to explore solutions to the DON problem. We brought together more than 40 people – from growers, to elevator operators, to feed industry representatives, to government officials, and ethanol producers. Some ideas were generated at this meeting and Grain Farmers of Ontario has been working on getting them implemented:

– Ethanol companies doing high DON runs
– Storage solutions for farmers without storage
– Solutions to sampling and testing protocols

Grain Farmers of Ontario is working with industry partners to ensure timely, accurate information is available for harvest decisions, sampling, storing, disposing, and cleaning. We will continue to provide more resources to you. It is fair for farmers to expect that there will be consistency in sampling and testing at elevators and that test kits will be used properly.

For those who have been impacted by this issue, this is an especially stressful time. If you need to talk to someone, please call 211 (Canadian Mental Health Line), or 1-866-531-2600 (Ontario Mental Health Helpline) to speak to someone. You are not alone.

We know you are looking for answers. Your Board of Directors and the staff at Grain Farmers of Ontario continue to be your voice to everyone involved in the grain industry and the government.

We will continue to share information via email and our website: If you have questions or comments, please direct them to:


Markus Haerle
Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario


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