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Drought year predicts high crop insurance payouts

Our History: September 1980

Effects of the drought-stricken crop of 1980 dominated the front page of our September 11, 1980 issue. Manitoba Crop Insurance anticipated a possible payout of $100 million, its highest on record. Crops farther west had suffered less than in Manitoba, and Statistics Canada was forecasting a larger Prairie wheat crop than the previous year, but the Canadian Wheat Board said while it would have to maintain exports to its largest customers, others would have to look elsewhere. That might not be the U.S., which had also suffered severe crop losses due to drought.

That front page may have been the first where many farmers learned of a new mould that had been detected in Ontario winter wheat, causing an export quarantine which was later lifted. Grain Commission chief inspector Vern Duke said that the mould, called fusarium, had not been found in Prairie wheat but wet conditions in Manitoba made it susceptible to the fungal disease.

After the parched growing season, the weekly Manitoba Agriculture crop report said farmers across most of the province were struggling with wet harvest conditions, with combining ranging from 15 to 80 per cent. However, the late rains were excellent for sugar beets, which were still grown for the Manitoba Sugar Company in Winnipeg, which expected production to match the 1979 level of 250,000 tonnes.

The following week reported on last-ditch and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to save Canfarm, a computer-based farm accounting program which was started with federal funding of $8 million and later transferred to a co-operative.

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