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Year of “The Big Wet” drowns a million acres

Our History: July 1999

It was called the year of “The Big Wet” — in 1999 the normally dryish southwest corner of the province suffered repeated deluges which drowned almost a million acres of cropland. Unfortunately it was the precursor of more wet years.

The bad news that week was that federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief had told Manitoba Minister Harry Enns that there would be no special assistance, and farmers would have to rely on the AIDA (Agricultural Income Disaster Assistance) and NISA (Net Income Stabilization Administration) programs. That had displeased a crowd of about 2,200 who had gathered in Melita to demand more aid.

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The Southwest Regional Health Authority had assembled a disaster relief team of a social worker, psychiatric nurse and a project co-ordinator to help farmers manage the stress.

There was also bad news in the cattle business — the U.S. Department of Commerce had issued a preliminary decision to impose anti-dumping duties averaging 4.73 per cent of value on all live cattle from Canada except breeding stock, costing exporters up to $50 per slaughter steer and $35 per heifer calf.

Those animals could have been finished sooner if they had been fed at night, according to a report from a feeding trial at the Brandon Research Centre. Researchers fed one group of steers at 8 a.m. and another at 8 p.m. The evening diners finished after 112 days, 15 days before the early-morning eaters.

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