Manitoba Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives says his tour of flooded areas of southwestern Manitoba last week left him more determined than ever to get an assistance program in place by early July.
“It’s a mess,” Struthers said in an interview after visiting Souris, Melita, Oak Lake, Deloraine, Whitewater Lake and Brandon June 21.
“It was quite stunning to see the amount of water… pushing us to a historic level of (an estimated three million) unseeded acres.”
Some of the affected farmers have received 300 per cent of normal rainfall since May 1. They are asking for aid through another federal-provincial AgriRecovery program, he said.
Struthers reconfirmed he and his federal counterpart Gerry Ritz, along with Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud, are working on an AgriRecovery program, which will be as good or better than last year’s $30 an acre paid on land too wet to seed, or that was seeded and then the crops subsequently drowned.
“I am determined to have it meet the needs of farmers,” Struthers said. “We’re determined to get the details worked out and announced before we get entangled in our election rules.”
Election laws prevent the Manitoba government from announcing programs after July 5 due to the upcoming provincial election in October.
Ritz said in an email he’s aware of the hardship many swamped farmers are facing.
“People’s livelihoods are under water – both the farmers and the communities that surround them,” he wrote.
“While support measures have been announced for producers within defined flood areas, governments are also working on an AgriRecovery assessment to determine what assistance may be needed beyond existing BRM programs in other areas of the province experiencing excess moisture conditions.”
The two levels of government are also working on a greenfeed program to encourage grain farmers to plant fodder for livestock on unplanted acres if they dry in time, Struthers said.
Linking additional unseeded acreage payments to planting greenfeed is being considered, he said.
“The Manitoba Beef Producers have talked to us about that,” Struthers said.
With so many flooded pastures and hayfields, livestock feed is expected to be tight this winter.
Most farmers will get a $50 an acre payment for their unseeded acres, less a deductible, through Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI). (Farmers who paid extra will get $65 an acre.)
The Keystone Agricultural Producers says farmers need a $50-an-acre AgriRecovery payment on unseeded acres. Production costs are up and with so many unseeded acres farmers need more aid because they won’t have a crop to sell or crop insurance payments, other than EMI.
With almost a quarter of Manitoba’s almost 12 million acres of cropland unseeded, Struthers estimated it will cost the provincial economy around $1 billion.
“That’s a big hit to our provincial economy, but you got to feel it’s a big hit for these farmers and the communities they live in,” he said. “It’s devastating.”
Struthers said one farmer he spoke to planted just 200 acres out of 5,200. Others haven’t planted an acre.
Despite their hardships, Struthers said many farmers remain undeterred. Some said they hope they can plant greenfeed before the July 15 crop insurance deadline.
“If that fails they were talking about planting winter wheat and fall rye,” he said. “I’m really quite inspired when I hear farmer talk in the middle of these conditions about seeding and growing and just keeping at it. It’s quite a story.” [email protected]
– stan struthers