Cattle Producers Revive Drought Aid Call

Manitoba cattle producers have renewed demands for financial assistance to their drought-stricken regions, following a federal drought aid announcement for Alberta and Saskatchewan last week.

The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association is calling for a government program to trigger drought relief payments for individual producers as needed.

Such a program would avoid arguments between producers and government over who deserves aid, according to MCPA.

MCPA issued a statement June 7 after federal and provincial governments announced $114 million for Alberta and Saskatchewan cattle producers hurt by drought in 2008 and 2009.

The money, issued under the AgriRecovery program, will help producers buy feed while their damaged pastures recover.

MCPA commended the move but said it reflects unequal treatment between other Prairie provinces and Manitoba, where producers in the southwestern region also experienced drought but got no aid.

“What we see is a problem,” said Major Jay Fox, MCPA president. “We see some parts of the country that are receiving help and other parts of the country that are not.”

MCPA has lobbied the province several times for drought assistance to the southwest, which was severely dry in 2007 and 2008.

Late rains in the summer of 2008 saved the crop that year. But it came too late to restore pastures and grasslands. As a result, producers experienced feed shortages.

MCPA asked for assistance under the Manitoba Forage Restoration Program and the Manitoba Livestock Feed Assistance Program.

But each time the association was told the conditions didn’t justify special aid for feed losses, said Sheila Mowat, MCPA general manager.

Producers were told existing government programs, such as AgriStability, were sufficient to deal with their financial situations.

But what’s really needed is a specific program to deal with individual cases of drought losses for livestock producers, according to MCPA.

“We need programs that are based on an individual’s production index, not based on a political riding or a region,” said Mowat.

“We know in Manitoba, certain areas can have a drought and certain areas can have a flood all at the same time.”

The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation is currently operating a crop insurance pilot project for pastures based on livestock performance. Results will be evaluated this fall. [email protected]

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