The province has released the first round of Ag Action Manitoba funding guidelines for the $176-million Manitoba interpretation of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Their next challenge will be hitting the application deadlines, some of which are June 22.
Four sectors have been earmarked for specific projects in the first year of assurance funding. The province has singled out Manitoba’s beekeepers, dairy farmers, sheep producers and the horticulture sector. These are in addition to other projects that run the full length of the program.
Manitoba Agriculture says a new slate of eligible sectors will be announced each year of the five-year program.
“The focus areas eligible for assurance funding this year resulted from discussions the department held this spring with commodity organizations,” a spokesperson from Manitoba Agriculture said. “We will go through a similar process this summer with these organizations and Manitoba Agriculture staff to gather ideas for next year’s focus areas, then evaluate them against the objectives of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, budgetary considerations, and other factors to determine what will be put forward for funding in 2019-20.”
The sheep sector has the largest scope in eligible projects this year. It is also the only one of the four to tie funding with mandatory webinars for each project.
Sheep producers can look for help outfitting their farm with low-stress handling equipment, automated milk replacers, ewe pregnancy and fetal number diagnostic equipment or training, testing and screening or flock health, breeding or production software.
Kate Basford, Manitoba Sheep Association executive director, welcomed the news and noted that the projects cover a list of needs to keep her sector growing.
“If you have a substantial number of bottle-fed lambs, all of your time and effort is consumed,” she said. “Your labour is consumed in feeding those lambs, so setting up an automatic feeder is a more effective way of taking away your labour, but also the viability of the lambs having access to milk at all times kind of in a more natural environment where they can go to ‘mom’ when they’re hungry. (It’s) much better than feeding them every three to four hours.”
At the same time, she lauded the decision to include low-stress handling, software and biosecurity, which she says will be critical to improving herd health. She also noted it would cover technology like ultrasound that’s widely used for the care of pregnant animals in other sectors.
“That’s something that other industries are using readily,” she said.
Some early adopters have begun using the technology for sheep, although the Manitoba Sheep Association hopes the new funding may bring it further into the mainstream.
The program is a departure from previous funding under Growing Forward 2, which required producers to be certified with a verified sheep program before accessing funding.
The webinars replace that requirement, Basford said. Applicants must now complete the designated webinar for their proposed project, as well as mandatory sessions on flock health, production records and biosecurity.
She expects more uptake of the program given the more flexible requirements.
For bees and horticulture, meanwhile, it’s all about disease.
Beekeepers can apply for help staving off American foulbrood, a pathogen that has become infamous for both its spread and damage.
Apiarists can apply for American foulbrood screening, on-farm disease testing equipment, replacing diseased brood comb, wide-spectrum disease screening, as well as a veterinarian visit to help develop management plans. The veterinarian visit is required to get funding, along with in a government-organized workshop on biosecurity.
Horticulture, meanwhile, has turned its attention to beating back verticillium, while producers can also apply to help deal with clubroot, assuming they are certified with CanadaGAP.
Dairy farmers round off the list with equipment to improve cow cleanliness or to minimize gait sores. This would include rubber mats, footbaths, dividers, brisket boards and other equipment.
David Wiens, president of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, says those projects are in line with what dairy farmers across Canada are already doing with their own proAction program.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada is working through the six pillars of that framework. The assurance program will include modules on milk quality, food safety, animal care, traceability, environmental impact and biosecurity.
“Through the proAction program, there’s an animal-care assessment where we actually have an audit done on farms that actually evaluate the cows kind of on a random basis, but a thorough investigation of the entire herd,”” Wiens said.
The score sheet of that animal-care assessment is mandatory for Ag Action Manitoba funding, along with any assessment over the next three years.
“The way I see it, this program is creating some funding for farmers to make those kinds of expenditures on the farm,” Wiens said. “It’s already happening, but I think what this is going to do is maybe it’ll happen this year rather than to wait until next year because there’s that little bit of added incentive.”
Farms outside of those sectors may still get Ag Action Manitoba support.
Assurance funding may shift from sector to sector over the next five years, but funding for training and consulting (including farm transition, risk management and human resource management), distribution and marketing (such as feasibility studies or market research) and research and innovation will be available all the way to the program’s end in 2023.
Other funding targets include crop breeding, production and handling improvements, developing new markets and young farmers, among other projects.
Training and consulting applications are being accepted as they come, while this year’s market and distribution funding has a July 8 deadline.
All funding is cost split between farmer and province.