Urgently awaited aid for Manitoba’s flood-ravaged cattle producers could still be weeks away because of a holdup in calculating feed losses.
A cool, wet fall has delayed the harvest and federal officials don’t know yet what hay and forage yields in flooded areas will be. As a result, they can’t say what kind of financial help is needed.
“What this requires is that we understand the full impacts of the excess moisture on the forage/feed situation for producers this year,” said Danny Foster, Agriculture and Agri- Food Canada’s director general of business risk management programs.
“We have to have enough information to provide the right advice and information for ministers to make a decision.”
The delay is frustrating to cattle producers who expected an aid package announcement a month ago. The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association has lobbied Ottawa and the province all summer for emergency financial assistance to help with feed shortages.
“We would hope that they move fast,” said Major Jay Fox, MCPA president. “It’s just ridiculous the length of time it’s taking for cattle producers to get even an idea of what could be coming down the pipe.
“It’s pretty tough to take at times.”
MCPA is calling for per-head payments for breeder and feeder stock to help offset hay and feed losses from heavy rains and overland flooding this summer.
The association also wants feed freight assistance and tax deferrals for producers forced to sell their herds.
Producers are looking for aid under the AgriRecovery disaster program, which is funded 60/40 by Ottawa and the provinces.
The need for flood relief was high on the agenda at MCPA’s annual round of fall district meetings which wrapped up last week.
MCPA says Manitoba Agr icul ture Minister Stan Struthers suggested in August an announcement could come by the end of the month.
A spokesperson for Struthers said last week the province has all its financial approvals in place and is waiting for word from Ottawa.
But Foster said AAFC is still assessing the damage and needs to know its full extent before it can recommend an AgriRecovery package to the politicians.
“Once we basically know what the outcome of harvest is, where we sit in terms of forage and feed availability, governments will move quickly to complete the assessment and make a decision accordingly.”
Ottawa and the provinces this summer announced a $450-million AgriRecovery relief program for flooded Prairie crop producers. Growers received $30 an acre for land that either went unseeded or experienced drown-out.
Manitoba received roughly $62 million. It’s estimated 700,000 acres in the province went unseeded this year. Another 1.5 to two million acres of cropland were completely or partially drowned out.
But the program didn’t cover hay crops and grassland. MCPA estimates a third of Manitoba’s beef producers could be short of feed this winter because of flooding.
The worst-hit areas are the Interlake and Westlake regions, which are suffering their third straight summer of excessive moisture. But flooding affects beef producers in other parts of the province, too, MCPA says.
Foster said Manitoba cattle producers are the only ones in Canada requesting emergency aid, although beef farmers in northeast and north-central Saskatchewan express similar concerns.
Fox said even if an announcement came right away, it will take two months for money to start flowing.
“That’s probably too late for a lot of producers.”
But Foster said cheques could be in the mail faster than that. When government announced assistance for crop producers in early July, payments started going out in mid-August. [email protected]
“We would hope that they move fast.”
– MAJOR JAY FOX, MCPA