Cattle Producers Still Waiting For Flood Aid – for Sep. 16, 2010

As the annual fall run nears, Manitoba cattle producers are still waiting to hear about a government aid program for their flood-stricken industry.

An expected announcement at the end of August failed to materialize and every passing day makes the situation more critical, cattle producers say.

“Our latest sense is that they are still working on a program and both the provincial and federal governments are in discussions on that,” Sheila Mowat, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association’s general manager, said Monday.

But time is short and producers urgently need to know what Ottawa and the province will provide to help them through the winter, said Mowat.

“Producers want to be able to figure out what they’re going to do. They want to know what their planning is. They’re waiting so see what’s going to happen,” she said.

“The longer it goes, the more urgent it becomes.”

Manitoba cattle producers were severely hurt this year by unseasonably heavy rains which flooded vast expanses of grassland, destroying hay crops and infrastructure.

The worst-hit areas are the Interlake and Westlake regions, which are experiencing their third straight year of overland flooding.

But Mowat said many producers elsewhere in Manitoba are in the same boat, which is why MCPA wants a province-wide assistance program to help producers on a case-by-case basis.

“If you have had damage done and you feel you’ve had a disaster in your area, no matter where you are in the province, you should have the opportunity to be able to apply and prove it.”

MCPA last met with Manitoba Agr icul ture Minister Stan Struthers Aug. 17 and has been in weekly contact with his office since then. Federal officials have been in Manitoba to discuss ways of providing aid through existing business risk management programs.

“They have been in discussions and working on something. That’s the latest that we know,” said Mowat.

“APPROVALS IN PLACE”

MCPA is appealing for a three-pronged assistance package to include per-head payments for breeder and feeder stock to offset hay losses, freight assistance to cover the cost of bringing in feed supplies, and tax deferrals for producers forced to sell off all or part of their herds.

MCPA expects aid to flow through the AgriRecovery federal- provincial disaster relief program. The program earlier this year paid out $450 million to western Canadian farmers to offset flooding losses to crops. Manitoba qualified for roughly $62 million. Payments of $30 million an acre apply both to seeded and unseeded acres.

But the program does not cover hay crops and gazing land, which is why MCPA wants a separate program for cattle producers.

Mowat said the association has a dollar figure in mind but is not willing to release it.

A spokesperson for Struthers said Monday the province is proposing a program with the federal government picking up 60 per cent of the tab and is waiting for Ottawa to respond.

“We’ve had our approvals in place for a couple of weeks and we’re waiting on the feds,” the spokesperson said.

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