Manitoba Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers has turned down a request from Keystone Agricultural Producers to extend the deadline to apply for the Canada-Manitoba Excess Moisture Assistance Program (CMEMAP).
“I’ve been talking to farmers from every region of the province and they’ve been telling me the size of their input bills and the pressure they’re getting from banks and suppliers so I really want this turnaround to be quick,” Struthers said in an interview July 23.
Farmers attending the KAP general council meeting in Brandon last week called for the deadline extension, saying farmers don’t have enough time to assess the extent of the damage. They also want the program’s deductible dropped and more help for Interlake farmers.
Struthers said the deductible of 25 acres or five per cent of annual crop acres, whichever is higher, will remain in place.
He said a deductible is necessary to protect the integrity of Manitoba’s crop insurance program. “I don’t want to make a decision that provides a disincentive for farmers next year to participate in crop insurance,” he said.
But calls for more assistance for Interlake farmers, who lost annual crops due to excessive rains in 2008 and 2009, are being considered. “I’ve been looking for ways to try to reflect that reality in the (federal-provincial) program we announced,” Struthers said.
“I’m quite open to trying to be creative to allow for some recognition that there have been producers in Manitoba who have put up with excess moisture for two and three years. How that will translate into the program, that we’re still working through, but I think that’s a very important part of this.”
KAP president Ian Wishart said he doubts the federal government will approve retroactive payments.
“But there could be other options, like adjusting margins on AgriStability,” Wishart said, which should trigger additional aid.
KAP delegates passed a resolution asking KAP to lobby the federal and provincial governments to make CMEMAP retroactive to 2008 and 2009. Kyle Foster, a District 10 delegate and Arborg-area farmer, said many Interlake producers are suffering their third excessively wet year in a row. Their pleas for aid fell on deaf ears until much of Western Canada turned wet this spring.
“We feel like we’re being treated like second-class citizens up there,” Foster said.
In an interview Foster said disaster aid only comes when a problem affects a big area putting governments under political pressure.
LOTS OF QUESTIONS
KAP delegates had lots of questions about which acres qualify for excess moisture support. Acres that were unseeded to annual crops by June 20 due to excess moisture are eligible, as are acres of annual crops destroyed by too much rain.
Bill Campbell, a District 1 representative and Mintoarea farmer, said farmers have questions about how the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) will determine whether an application is legitimate and whether they can appeal. (MASC says an appeal mechanism is being developed.)
“I can do it (fill out the application) from the kitchen table but I could do it a lot better from the combine seat,” Campbell said.
The aid should have been based on crop insurance claims, Foster said. Farmers would have a better handle on their losses, aid would be more targeted and it would be easier for MASC to police.
As of July 23 more than 450 of the 7,700 applications sent to farmers enrolled in crop insurance had been returned, as well as more than 180 applications from non-insured producers.
Meanwhile, MASC is urging farmers to report accurately.
“We want to discourage producers from saying their whole crop is bad and list all their acres,” David Van Deynze, MASC’s manager of claim services said in an interview.
Farmers caught falsifying their applications will be penalized and in some cases could end up without a payment.
When false claims are made, MASC will calculate compensation by subtracting the number of unclaimed acres from the acres the farmer was claiming.
For example, if a 1,000-acre farmer claims 1,000 acres were destroyed by excess moisture, but in fact only 500 acres were, that farmer wouldn’t be paid at all. (500 acres of destroyed crops -500 ineligible acres = 0.)
MASC is investigating using satellite photographs to verify claims but it will depend on the cost, Van Deynze said.
MASC will also send staff to check suspicious applications.
There were 22 resolutions at KAP’s general council meeting – the most in at least 10 years. Eighteen were passed, two were defeated, one was tabled and one withdrawn.
Of the 22, 14 dealt with crop insurance or CMEMAP. Twelve were passed; six came from District 10, which covers the Interlake. [email protected]
beingtreatedlike second-classcitizens upthere.”
– KYLE FOSTER