Seeding in mid-July. Long detours due to road closures. “Implement row” staff in town on notice their hours will be cut. Staying out of coffee shops to avoid the gloomy talk. That’s how Manitoba farmers are describing the summer of 2011.
In a gloomy cross-province update at their general council meeting here last week, district representatives of Keystone Agricultural Producers described a variety of conditions across their regions that basically go from bad to worse.
“My father always said to me this area will always produce. Well, it ain’t gonna this year,” said livestock and grain farmer Bill Campbell of Minto who was headed back to try to do more seeding after the July 14 meeting.
In District 1 farmers are reporting anywhere from 80 per cent of their acres seeded right down to nothing at all, Campbell said. “A lot of farmers are at zero. Personally, I’m at five per cent. Twenty to 25 per cent would be an average.”
Extreme variability in terms of crops planted and present condition is the scene across agro-Manitoba.
“My guess is about 10 to 15 per cent of the fields are very good crops,” said Chuck Fossay who farms at Starbuck and represents District 6.
On the other hand, in District 12 George Oberlin said while they got a late start, the northwest part of the province is probably the only place things look mostly as they should by mid-July.
“Don’t shoot me everybody,” he told delegates, “but our crops are pretty good in our area.”
District 10 rep Paul Gregory at Fisher Branch said things don’t look good at all for another year in the Interlake. The outlook is grim. Anywhere from zero to about 25 per cent of fields have been seeded, he said. “Possibly at Teulon you’re looking at half or better. It’s quite variable. I don’t dare go near the coffee shop because there are going to be some guys looking at a career change.”
Mulling over what’s next undoubtedly goes on during longer trips to town too. Rural driving now means often taking 20 miles for what should be a three-mile trip due to road closures, said Walter Finlay who farms at Souris.
RESOLUTIONS SUPPORT LIVESTOCK SECTOR
KAP delegates passed several resolutions at the July 14 meeting related to mounting weather-related worries and grievances.
One calls on the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to remove the five per cent excess moisture deductible when a rural municipality exceeds 25 per cent unseeded acres, and that no additional five per cent deductible be added the subsequent year.
“We felt that if a municipality has 25 per cent unseeded acres that is not a producer’s issue with regards to not being able to get his land seeded,” said Campbell. District 1 drafted the resolution. “We just felt it is a general weather, environmental issue that we should not be penalized for by paying the five per cent deductible.”
The delegates also supported a resolution calling for a $200-per-head AgriRecovery program for the cow-calf industry.
The number is based on Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) figures based on 2011 budgets for the cost of production of a cow-calf pair, said Campbell who also spoke to that resolution.
“We feel the sector was very hard hit in this province,” he said, adding that the toll this wet year is having on livestock producers can be difficult to measure, given herd health issues, and infrastructure losses such as drowned-out fencelines that are harder to account for. Campbell predicts significant exits from the livestock sector.
“The Interlake has been dealing with this (weather downturn) for four years and we are seeing a mass exodus of cows from that area. The Oak Lake is at historic highs. The Whitewater Lake, some of these areas are renowned for their cow-calf production and these guys are going to leave. And I don’t know if they’re coming back.”
The delegates also suppor ted another resolut ion calling on the province and federal government to ensure that AgriRecovery programs distribute compensation fairly and equitably among all livestock and crop commodity producers.
Another resolution calls for an AgriStability program to cover every livestock enterpr ise in the province that ensures coverage of 70 per cent of a margin based on current industry livestock budgets.
Farmers also talked of what’s down the road if more rain continues and fall work can’t get done.
Concerns are mounting about what’s ahead next year, said KAP president Doug Chorney in an interview.
Without “extraordinarily dry conditions” for the next 12 months, this water won’t be gone, he said, adding that farmers are going to have to start looking at other cropping options if this keeps up. “I think we’re going to have to revisit how we farm in Manitoba if this is a pattern,” he said. “Because we can’t grow the crops we’ve traditionally grown.”
Weldon Newton with District 9 said he thinks rural businesses haven’t yet fully grasped the impact this year’s downturn on the farm will have.
“The ones that are in tune with the ag situation are already starting to gear down,” he said, adding that he’s heard of mechanics having their hours reduced already.
“I don’t think the business community in town has fully comprehended this yet. It’s going to have a huge impact on rural communities because, as they say, if we don’t have any money, we don’t spend it.”
– BILL CAMPBELL, MI NTO LIVESTOCK PRODUCER