Manitoba cattle producers received an early Christmas present last week with an $18-million government aid package to offset feed shortages from flooding.
But for some producers the help comes too late because they have already sold animals they cannot feed.
“Unfortunately, yes, it probably is. Some have already made their decision because of the situation they’re in,” said Trevor Atchison, a Manitoba Beef Producers director.
The federal-provincial aid package announced Dec. 17 provides feed freight assistance and direct payments for producers to access feed.
The Canada-Manitoba Feed and Transportation Assistance Program pays feed-short producers up to 22 cents per tonne per mile to haul in feed supplies. It also pays up to 10 cents a mile for producers to transport animals to places where there is feed.
The program only pays producers for transporting feed beyond distances which would be considered normal for them. The minimum allowable distance is 25 km; the maximum is 350 km.
Feed assistance payments up to $30 a ton for breeding stock are provided based on a producer’s forage shortfall. For example, a producer who harvested only half his normal hay crop will receive the value of the shortfall up to the maximum payment, minus a 10 per cent deductible.
Detailed information is available at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture.
The bulk of the $18 million is expected to go to cattle producers in the Interlake and Westlake regions, where three straight years of excessive moisture have devastated forage crops.
But producers in other parts of Manitoba were also affected by heavy rains this summer.
Atchison, who raises cattle near Pipestone in western Manitoba and whose operation relies on slough hay, said he had several quarter sections that couldn’t even be reached to cut hay because it was so wet.
The assistance package comes four months after Manitoba Beef Producers began appealing for it. It falls short of a flat per-head payment which MBP included in its request.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said a late harvest and uncertainty about actual feed shortages delayed the program.
He also said the government tries to avoid per-head payments because of the risk of possible trade action by other countries.
“We’re always apprehensive to doing it per head. Certainly, that’s the first step to a countervail situation,” Ritz said during a news conference held at a Winnipeg hotel to announce the program.
Atchison said the program will help producers who held on to their cattle while waiting to learn what they might get.
“It’s what they’ve been waiting for to make the decision whether to sell their cows and hold on and plan for the future next year or whatever they’re going to do. This is a great step for them to try to use the funding that’s available to help their operation move into next year,” said Atchison.
He said he would reserve further comment on the program until the fine details become clear.
The $18 million is cost shared 60 per cent by Ottawa and 40 per cent by the province. The money flows through AgriRecovery, the federal-provincial farm disaster assistance program.
Keystone Agricultural Producers said it understands Manitoba’s $7-million contribution comes from unspent money from a similar aid package to flooded grain farmers earlier this year.
KAP district meetings this fall heard only about two-thirds of Manitoba’s $60 million share was spent because the province applied a five per cent deductible on per-acre payments. [email protected]
– TREVOR ATCHISON, MBP