The province is reminding producers of the possible tools in their toolbox when dealing with dry conditions.
Although some rain is poised to fall this Victoria Day weekend, concerns over dry conditions have already loomed large during the spring and winter. As of the end of April, almost all agricultural regions in the province were in severe to extreme drought, according to the Canadian Drought Monitor, and concern was particularly sharp in the livestock sector, with producers worried about the impacts of yet another dry year on perennial forages and substantially below normal dugout levels.
Likewise, grain producers worried about impacts on germination, particularly for small-seeded and shallow crops like canola.
“There’s no doubt, it’s very dry,” Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen said. “We came through a dry winter. We knew this was coming based on the lack of snowfall this winter. So yes, it’s a concern. That’s why we’re being proactive here in making sure producers know what’s available.”
On May 18, the province posted a list of services for producers strained by dry conditions.
Among those, the province announced a list of Crown land parcels not normally used for agriculture, but that will be opened up for extra grazing and hay this year. Parcels will be posted by Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD) until June 11, and interested producers should contact one of their local farm production specialist, the province has said.
The move is in line with requests from the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) earlier this spring. In a letter to Pedersen’s office, the producer group outlined drought concerns for the upcoming year and requested the province consider once again opening up parcels of public lands, as they have for the last several years.
The same letter suggested more promotion of sites to source feed, like the Manitoba Hay Listing, and extra extension to educate producers on management strategies.
The Manitoba Hay Listing was among the services recently highlighted by the province, along with links to resource materials.
Tyler Fulton, MBP president, thanked the province for the announced extra forage lands.
“Any additional opportunities that can be provided around the province for haying and grazing are valuable,” he said. “The other urgent problem is water availability. MBP had also asked the government to reopen access to the BMP (best management practices) program related to wells and dugouts. Feed and water are the essentials of beef production, and MBP will continue to advocate with the provincial government for initiatives like these to help our producers move through and beyond this very serious situation.”
MBP had also requested an update from the province on interdepartmental talks, which they hoped might yield aid for producers to access pumps or water lines.
Pedersen suggested that producers look to their local watershed district, which may have pumps and equipment available for use.
Business risk management
The province also highlighted price and production insurance, including AgriInsurance, Livestock Price Insurance, AgriStability, contract price options to increase canola and pea dollar coverage and forage insurance, including Manitoba’s hay disaster benefit.
While deadlines on some of those options have passed, producers looking at Livestock Price Insurance, for example, have until June 10.
Forage experts urged producers to consider forage insurance earlier this year, after noting the first signs of a potentially tough growing season.
This will be the first year since the introduction of forage insurance changes. Following feed shortages in 2019, the province announced a review of forage insurance, completed last year.
Very few of those flagging forage acres in 2019 — about 18 per cent according to data from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation — were insured, the province later noted, and forage insurance in general had seen poor uptake. Last year, covered acres increased to just over a quarter of forage land.
This year, MASC introduced yield cushions, something the review argued would limit coverage drops following a disaster year, and more generous terms for transport allowances and the hay disaster benefit.
Other changes include streamlined administration and new co-operation between Alberta and Saskatchewan on satellite-based data, something the review argued would lead to more accurate production information.
The number of covered acres this year, under the new changes, is still unclear, Pedersen said.
“We know that there’s increased interest,” he said. “We don’t have the numbers yet.”