The optimism that normally surrounds planting season is mired in a troubling forecast about Ontario farm income. As farmers put their 2010 crops in the ground, Ottawa is predicting they could lose as much as $500 million when they harvest in a few months. That’s the worst case scenario. But even the best case scenario has them deep in the hole. It could easily be one of the worst years ever for Ontario farmers, and it’s the topic of my Urban Cowboy column in today’s Guelph Mercury.

Farm groups such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture are trying to sound the alarm bell and drum up support for relief from what federation president Bette Jean Crews calls a crisis. “It’s not farmers’ fault, it’s not the government’s fault, it’s a combination of factors that made for a perfect storm,” she says. “Government programs exist that will get us through one crisis, but not a multitude of crises all at the same time. The numbers are staggering and we need help.”

Crews says even the weather is wreaking havoc on farmers, such as the tornado that went through Grey and Bruce counties, yielding the photo below. This photo and others appear on the OFA website.