“Some people are
having some challenges and they want to blame me and I can live with that.”
– ROSANN WOWCHUK
Rank and file delegates verbally pummelled the Manitoba government at the Oct. 15 Keystone Agricultural Producers meeting, accusing it of being indifferent to outright hostile towards agriculture.
“I can’t understand what the government is thinking,” said Kyle Foster who farms near Arborg in the Interlake hit by excessive moisture two years in a row. “We definitely have the worst agriculture government we have ever had in this province.”
Others complained of government unfairness in distributing disaster aid and environmental farm plan money, unwarranted environmental regulations, the moratorium on hog barn expansions and not doing enough to help struggling hog and cattle producers.
“They’re only interested in their voting base, which is in Winnipeg,” said Weldon Newton, a hog farmer from Neepawa.
“So I don’t think we have much hope unless there’s a major attitude change there of getting any more support for agriculture and we can continue to look for it going down the tubes.”
Delegates passed a resolution calling on the Manitoba government to assist struggling hog farmers.
Randolph-area hog farmer Will Peters complained the wording of the resolution had been sanitized.
“We’re not happy with the agriculture minister at all in our area and that’s not in here at all,” Peters said.
“Our government is not looking at agriculture very strongly at all.”
KAP vice-president Robert McLean said KAP has to work with the government that’s in place.
“There are some issues where we’re having quite a lot of difficulty and yet there’s issues that government and our organization work well (on) and we find solutions,” he said.
KAP delegates passed a resolution to lobby the provincial government to treat all producers equitably in all provincial disaster assistance programs.
Minto-area farmer Bill Campbell said farmers in the southwest felt alienated in 2008 when the province failed to provide drought assistance even though many farmers didn’t have enough feed or water for their cattle. That same year flooded farmers in the Interlake received a feed freight assistance program.
“A disaster is a disaster and whether you are in Pierson or Steinbach or Roblin or wherever we felt the producers should be treated equally,” he said.
KAP president Ian Wishart said eligibility for assistance under the new federal-provincial Agri-recovery program needs to be better defined.
“It’s almost a squeaky wheel process,” he said. “If you scream loud enough you will get some response, but that doesn’t mean someone else wasn’t in need as well. We can’t have that on an ongoing basis.”
Equity was at the core of another resolution KAP delegates passed. Farmers should receive equal access to funding through the Environmental Farm Action Program and the Manitoba Sustainable Agriculture Practices Program in all beneficial management practice categories regardless of what region they are in.
Souris-area farmer Walter Finlay complained farmers in the Red River Valley can get funding for heavy harrows to help manage straw, but farmers in the southwest can’t.
“It (program) is cost shared between the taxpayers of this country and this province – federal money and provincial money,” he said. “So why should one part of the province be entitled to a higher priority than people from another part of the province…?”
KAP delegates also passed a resolution to lobby the federal and provincial governments for a disaster program for leafcutter and honey producers in flooded regions. Fisher Branch honey producer Paul Gregory said Interlake beekeepers took off half a normal crop this year.
Last year leafcutter bee producers got their bees back, but this year most didn’t get that, he said. For a cattle producer it’s like losing all your calves and most of your cows too.
Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk took the criticism in stride.
“Some people are having some challenges and they want to blame me and I can live with that,” she said later in an interview.
The pork industry forgets all the aid the provincial government has provided, including through the AgriStability, she said.
“I understand people are frustrated, but people also have to understand part of the reason there’s a problem with pork is that there is overproduction in the world,” she said.
The province also provided feed freight assistance to flooded Interlake farmers last year, plus money for forage and cropland restoration.
In the southwest department official aid wasn’t warranted, she said.
If the government was ignoring agriculture the Agriculture Department’s budgets would not have increased over the years and the government wouldn’t be rebating 75 per cent of the education tax on farmland, returning millions of dollars to the producers, Wowchuk added.
“A lot more of that money goes to the southern part of the province than the northern part of the province,” she said. [email protected]