The Manitoba government announced several compensation programs worth an estimated $44 million for farmers May 24 as part of a sweeping $175-million package of mitigation and compensation measures related to flooding in the province.
There is a program for farmers south of the Hoop and Holler Bend near Portage la Prairie and surrounding Lake Manitoba affected by Assiniboine River flooding, a combination of compensation and buyouts for farmers in the waterlogged Shoal Lakes area, and special compensation for producers who lost livestock in the April blizzard.
Farmers whose circumstances fall outside those criteria must seek compensation through pre-existing Disaster Financial Assistance, crop insurance and federal-provincial AgriRecovery programs.
Provincial officials said early this week they expect the funds in the special compensation programs will begin to flow within a month.
ASSINIBOINE RIVER FLOODING
There’s a special program for flooded farmers along Lake Manitoba’s shoreline, the Portage Diversion and downstream from the controlled release from the Assiniboine River at Hoop and Holler Bend southeast of Portage la Prairie. Eligible farmers will be compensated for property damage, lost income, flood preparation, moving inventory and post-flood cleanup Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers said in an interview May 23.
The programs, which the province hopes will be cost shared with Ottawa, will compensate farmers for several years of flood-related losses if necessary.
“There will be no deductible,” Struthers said.
The program will cover the costs for transporting feed to livestock or livestock to feed greater distances than normal because of a forage shortage caused by excess moisture.
Eligible animals include cattle, bison, elk, sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca and horses. Payment rates are dependent on species with maximum payment of $100 for a cow-calf pair.
Only 3.5 square kilometres of mostly farmland was flooded by the controlled spill, meant to reduce pressure of Assiniboine River dikes between Portage and Headingley and avoid an unplanned breach that could have flooded 850 homes.
SHOAL LAKES FLOODING
The province is also moving in with a separate program to help farmers in the Shoal Lakes area who have been fighting rising water and loss of land for several years.
The assistance will offset lost income for 2011 and 2010 due to flooded hay and pasture as well as the cost to transport livestock and feed.
“We are going to include a voluntary buyout and then transition money for those who opt in for the voluntary buyout,” Struthers said. “And provide a little bit of money for extraordinary actions that have been taken – some emergency expenses that producers have come across – things like equipment rental or animal rescue, temporary pens, those sorts of things.”
The three-year program will cost an estimated $22 million.
The province’s livestock producers will also see compensation for the estimated 2,000 head of livestock that died during the April 29 and 30 blizzard that swept across the province. Assistance for animals killed in the storm is based on the number of head lost at market value, Struthers said.
Eligible animals include beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, elk, sheep, goats, llamas and horses used for the production of meat or pregnant mare urine. Purebred livestock will be compensated at a rate 1.5 times higher than commercial production.
Applications are available at local MAFRI GO offices and must be completed by June 30.
Farmers affected by flooding outside the special program area can apply for assistance of up to $200,000 through the Disaster Financial Aid (DFA) program. While the program covers damage to homes and property, flood preparation and cleanup, lost income is not covered.
After another rainy weekend and with more in the forecast, there’s also a possibility of assistance for farmers unable to seed similar to last year through AgriRecovery, Struthers said.
Struthers said he hasn’t ruled out the Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) request to boost Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI) for unseeded fields to $70 an acre from $50. It’s “problematic” to get reinsurance after the insurance year has started, he said.
“But I’ve said to KAP that I haven’t closed the door to it as a possibility,” Struthers said. “I think it’s something I’m open to their advice on.”
Struthers stressed the need to compensate farmers quickly.
“I think you’ll find we’ve got our foot firmly placed on the gas pedal for this one,” he said. “We’ve been saying it’s a special compensation package all along so what you don’t want to happen now is for this to drag out so you’ll see our staff working very diligently so the terms and conditions get out in place very quickly and then application forms from there.”
A special unit within the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation has been set up to administer the special aid program.
Although the Manitoba government says the level of Lake Manitoba is two feet lower than it would be if the Fairford outlet and Portage Diversion weren’t in place, farmers around there deserve special aid, Struthers said.
We’ve been employing the Portage Diversion to record levels,” he said. “We’ve taken special efforts to enhance the Portage Diversion to send even more water north into Lake Manitoba. When you look at the circumstances that has left people along the shoreline in, I think we have every justification to make a special compensation package for those people around Lake Manitoba.” [email protected]
“Ithinkyou’llfindwe’vegot ourfootfirmlyplacedonthe gaspedalforthisone.”
– STAN STRUTHERS