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Sweeping Flood Aid Announced For Livestock Producers

Although the details are still being worked out, the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) is welcoming the compensation the province is offering livestock producers affected by flooding and blizzards this spring as a “meaningful recovery package.”

“MBP commends the province for the leadership it is providing at the provincial level with the announcement of special aid and long-term support for those affected by the flood event of 2011,” president Major Jay Fox said in a release.

“On behalf of our beef producers, we extend our thanks for getting a meaningful recovery package in place in the swift time frame that was needed.”

The program compensates producers for short-and long-term flood losses in and around the Lake Manitoba region. It also compensates them for cattle killed by a late-season blizzard.

The aid package, announced May 24 by Premier Greg Selinger, contains four components:

Aid for Lake Manitoba livestock producers forced to move animals out of flooded areas because of high water levels on the lake.

Renovation and repair for Lake Manitoba pastures and farm infrastructure damaged by flood water.

A plan to compensate landowners in the Shoal Lakes area for flood-related losses, as well as an offer to buy up chronically flooded land in the district.

Compensation for an estimated 2,000 cattle which died on range in a snowstorm that swept across the province April 29 and 30.

Full details about the program were incomplete last week. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Stan Struthers, whose department is overseeing the plan, said compensation levels in some cases still have to be worked out.

But Struthers stressed the need to get money out to affected producers as fast as possible.

“We will be fair with farmers. We will be generous and we’re going to get cheques out quickly,” he said.

Struthers said it’s possible the federal government may contribute to the program through Disaster Financial Assistance or other means.

“We’re committed to what we put on paper and inviting the federal government to come along with us.”

LAKE MANITOBA AID

In the Lake Manitoba region, the program promises to help with the cost of feed or renting alternative pastures for herds. It will also help cover transportation costs for feed or for animals that have to be moved more than a short distance. Payment rates depend on the species. The maximum payment is $100 for a cow-calf pair.

Longer term, the program promises assistance to help repair pastures and improved farmland damaged by flood waters. Flood mitigation measures to protect farm property are also included.

Payments for flood-related 2011 transportation costs vary with the commodity. For example, the payment rate for straw, hay and greenfeed is 26 cents per tonne for each loaded mile. Reimbursements for moving silage and concentrated feedstuffs are 19 and 14 cents/tonne/loaded mile respectively. Compensation for hauling livestock ranges from five to 12 cents per head per loaded mile, depending on the species. Producers must provide declarations and transaction receipts to get paid.

Other details on how much producers will receive and for what are still in preparation, Struthers said.

LIVESTOCK MORTALITIES

Many of the cattle that died from exposure and suffocation in the late-April blizzard were on the western side of the province. Losses were also reported in the Carberry, Killarney and northern Interlake regions.

Struthers said compensation will be at market value based on the number of head lost. Purebred livestock will be compensated at 1-1/2 times the value of commercial animals.

Producers must sign declarations for animal deaths. They must also provide records or documentation to confirm the number of livestock lost. Those can include: calving records, veterinary receipts, CRA-related documents, CCIA tag sheets or recent financial statements including livestock inventories.

SHOAL LAKE

The program for this chronically flooded region between Lakes Manitoba and Winnipeg provides compensation for producers who lost income from hay and pasture land in 2010 and 2011, plus transportation costs for moving feed and animals threatened by flood waters.

It also includes a provision for the province to buy up privately owned land lost to chronic flooding in recent years.

The cost of the initiative is estimated at $22 million over three years, although Struthers said the figure is flexible.

“It could be more than $22 million. It might be less. It all depends on how discussions go in terms of buyouts and what kind of uptake there is.”

The buyout option caught some Shoal Lake-area farmers by surprise.

“It actually looks like more than we were looking for,” said Howard Hilstrom, who heads a group of local landowners demanding long-term flood relief.

“We had expected that we were going to get per-acre payments. We did not expect to see the buyout option come in there.”

What landowners really want is a large-scale drainage project in the region to recover land lost to incoming water which cannot drain away, Hilstom said.

Doug Chorney, Keystone Agricultural Producers president, said he was pleased by the Shoal Lake compensation package but unsure about the buyout option.

“Producers I’ve talked to say they don’t want a buyout. They want compensation and the water to go down. They want their land back,” Chorney said. [email protected]

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“Wewillbegenerousandwe’regoingtogetchequesoutquickly.”

– STAN STRUTHERS

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