The province’s new agriculture minister’s first words to Keystone Agriculture Producers delegates last week were to assure them he’s a farmer who understands their challenges.
And he knows the value of teamwork.
“I’m still going to maintain that mindset,” said Ron Kostyshyn, the newly minted minister of Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives.
“We need to partner on a number of ideas.”
One of the key ways the farm organization can expect to be engaged by government is on issues of water and watershed planning and management, said Kostyshyn, who has worked with conservation districts.
“Our government is committed to a plan,” Kostyshyn told reporters outside the meeting. “We need to start having some forethought of what’s being done on the landscape, not only in the province of Manitoba but in Saskatchewan and Alberta where our watersheds start.”
Indeed, a comprehensive watershed strategy topped KAP’s election wish list last fall, and president Doug Chorney said he’s encouraged by Kostyshyn’s comments.
“He has told us that the government definitely is willing to work with organizations like KAP, and make a plan to deal with water issues going forward,” said Chorney, who was acclaimed for a new term as president at the AGM.
“I’m really confident that he’s hearing our ideas and is willing to work with us.”
Conservation districts, Ducks Unlimited, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development will be other obvious partners in that effort, but planning needs to begin soon because this will not be something done quickly, said Chorney.
“We are not going to find short-term solutions to long-term problems,” he said. “It’s taken us years to drain every wetland. It’s not going to be fixed in a few months.”
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities this past November also called for comprehensive watershed planning to stop devastating flood events of 2011 from recurring.
Kostyshyn, who runs a 200-head cow-calf operation near Ethelbert, was questioned by delegates about those still waiting to receive financial compensation for flood-related damages, including farmland losses.
“We’re in a scenario of a lot of claims and we are processing them,” he said. “The money hasn’t run out. The money is still there and the claims will be processed.”
Last week, the province also announced 34 Manitoba communities affected by last year’s flooding will share $2.5 million in post-flood economic stimulus grants to fund 42 projects, including hiring economic development officers, community marketing and promotion and restoration of local infrastructure damaged by flooding.