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Beef sector welcomes support

But Kostyshyn remains non-committal on AgriRecovery for crop producers

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Last week’s AgriRecovery announcement brought some good news for the beef producers, but no news for Manitoba crop producers hoping for additional support after a disastrous growing season.

Ron Kostyshyn, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, was non-committal when asked whether crop producers would receive additional help this year in the form of AgriRecovery.

“At this stage of the game no decision has been made,” he said.

Ron Kostyshyn, MAFRD minister
“We continue to have conversations with the federal government that we need to bring forward opportunities to explore how insurance-based programs need to be dealing with the weather change patterns of excess moisture.” – Ron Kostyshyn, MAFRD minister photo: Supplied

The Nov. 13 announcement included a “Forage Shortfall and Transportation Assistance Initiative” that will provide up to $0.16 per tonne per loaded km to transport feed and up to $0.08 per head per loaded km to transport breeding livestock and their unweaned calves to feed sources.

Producers in the Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis regions will receive help purchasing feed for up to $50 per tonne. The announcement stipulated payments will be calculated based on individual need and receipts will be required to ensure producers have incurred eligible transportation and feed costs.

Beef producers were pleased with the support package.

“We would like to thank the provincial and federal governments for recognizing the seriousness of this issue and coming forward with a plan that will be of great help to producers in the affected regions,” said MBP president Heinz Reimer in a release.

Hard to understand

Keystone Agricultural Producers also applauded the support for livestock producers but said the lack of additional support for crop producers is hard to understand. While crop producers were given $108 million to cover flood damage in 2011 this year they have not received any assistance outside of crop insurance.

Existing programs like crop insurance and excess moisture insurance fall far short, according to vice-president Dan Mazier. A five per cent deductible is added, cumulatively, for every claim that is made.

Repeat claims can accumulate a deductible as high as 30 per cent. Many farmers have experienced consecutive floods so not only are their losses accumulating, their coverage is declining.

“We’ve got some talking to do about how this Excess Moisture Program is working for events like what we’ve experienced in the last three to four years,” said Mazier.

KAP is pressing 100 per cent compensation on losses as a result of artificial flooding or the operation of a water-control structure.

So far this year crop insurance in the province, which is funded by producers, with help from the provincial and federal government, has paid out $63 million.

Mounting claims

That number, Kostyshyn said, is expected to climb to $200 million to $250 million once all the claims are processed.

“I don’t think anyone envisioned the multiple-year type of events that we’re having,” said Mazier. “I think the environment is changing quicker than what government policy can adapt to. Everybody is kind of running out of money.”

Kostyshyn echoed this sentiment. “Obviously crop insurance has been doing its work, but we have to enhance that because weather patterns have changed drastically.”

Melinda German, general manager for the Manitoba Beef Producers, said she is pleased with the announcement. “It comes at a time when producers really need to make those management decisions now,” she said.

“The programs announced today are going to help short term to cover up some of the hurt producers are feeling.”

Forage shortfalls have been reported throughout Manitoba due to excess moisture conditions in most of the province since July. Cattle farmers nearing retirement have weighed whether or not to sell based on the availability of feed. Up until this point things weren’t looking good.

Transport costs

Some producers with surplus hay have struggled to secure sales because of the transport costs of shipping the feed. Tammy Michaud and her husband grow hay in Île-des-Chênes, southeast Manitoba, but she said too often the distance deters producers.

“Transportation costs are going to kill the deal and they have every time so far. But maybe not anymore,” she said.

While AgriRecovery is no doubt good news for cattle producers, German said, government must also look at more long-term solutions that address recurrent flooding.

“We’ve been dealing year after year with water management issues and we need some long-term solutions to make sure we minimize some of these impacts going forward,” said German. The Manitoba Beef Producers, she said, has asked that a second outlet on Lake Manitoba be installed so the inflow matches outflow, ensuring nearby farms and communities don’t continue to be flooded.

Whether crop producers will see AgriRecovery support from the government remains to be seen. “Those discussions are ongoing,” Kostyshyn said. “We’ll see what may materialize in the next little while.

“At the end of the day the culprit, if I may use that terminology, is Mother Nature,” said Kostyshyn.

“We continue to have conversations with the federal government that we need to bring forward opportunities to explore how insurance-based programs need to be dealing with the weather change patterns of excess moisture,” he said.

To learn more on the details of this year’s AgriRecovery program contact your local GO office. Producers are encouraged to keep track of receipts and paperwork to ensure reimbursement is possible.

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