Manitoba farmers are crying foul over a five per cent deductible on a $30-an-acre payment to compensate producers for flooded cropland this spring.
Producers say it’s unfair that they have to pay a deductible when farmers in Saskatchewan and Alberta do not.
Keystone Agricultural Producers passed a resolution at last week’s general council meeting protesting the measure.
The resolution called on the province to ensure “Manitoba farmers are not disadvantaged relative to their Saskatchewan and Alberta counterparts” in future federal-provincial cost-shared programs.
A $450-million emergency flood aid program announced by Ottawa and the provinces in July promised $30 an acre for cropland in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta that was either drowned out or couldn’t be seeded because of unusually heavy spring rains.
Manitoba qualified for roughly $60 million in aid, based on an estimated two million flooded acres, of which some 800,000 acres went unseeded.
But Manitoba’s program included a deductible of either 25 acres or five per cent of annual crop acres, whichever was higher.
The deductible is a sore point with producers, who consider it a clawback on what was originally promised.
The government’s response is that deductibles are standard in farm programs, such as crop insurance, and this case should be no exception.
Doug Chorney, KAP vice-president, said Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers insists the excess moisture assistance program could compromise crop insurance if it didn’t carry a deductible.
But Chorney said that makes no sense because the program is not linked to crop insurance, even though the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation administers it.
Chorney said the deductible took $2,100 off program payments he received for flooding on his farm near Selkirk.
KAP also objects to the fact that Manitoba’s Aug. 3 application deadline was earlier than for the other two provinces, giving farmers less time to apply.
Lorne Martin, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives assistant deputy minister, disputed KAP’s claim that Alberta and Saskatchewan do not apply deductibles.
Alberta does not pay for claims under 25 acres. Saskatchewan applies a “seeding intensity” factor on claims to account for summer-fallow, which would not be seeded in any case, Martin said.
Manitoba farmers with crop insurance contracts receive an automatic $50-an-acre coverage for land unseeded because of excessive moisture. Although this emergency program is not crop insurance, it’s still a direct payment to producers, so a deductible is appropriate, Martin said.
“The five per cent deductible is very consistent with the kind of approach that we’ve taken on most programs and it’s consistent with the excess moisture program that we have in place with AgriInsurance.”
Not having a deductible for a special program could create pressure to drop the deductible for regular excess moisture insurance, Martin said.
“We want to maintain the integrity of the programs that are going to be around for a long time.”
Martin also said Manitoba had an earlier application deadline because it wanted to get money out to farmers quicker.
Chorney said he has unsuccessfully tried to learn from Struthers how much of the $60-million allocation Manitoba will actually spend.
Martin hinted it could be less because the province has lowered its original estimate for flooded acres.
“We do not expect that there will be two million acres. In fact, we know that there will not be two million acres.”
Chorney wondered if the government will use unspent money to help fund a flood assistance program for Manitoba cattle producers, who have also requested emergency [email protected]
“We want to maintain the integrity of programs.”
– LORNE MARTIN, MAFRI