AID | $155 million in relief measures hits the biggest hurts, but how does it stack up against groups’ initial asks?
KAP, Manitoba Beef Producers and Dairy Farmers of Manitoba said they were pleased with AgriRecovery drought relief measures announced August 31.
“We thank both levels of government for recognizing the severity of the disaster and enacting AgriRecovery,” said MBF president Tyler Fulton at the Aug. 31 announcement outside the Manitoba legislature.
“I think the fact that this is one of the largest AgriRecovery initiatives specifically for a sector like the beef industry reflects the provincial government’s understanding of the scope of the issue,” he added.
Ag Minister Ralph Eichler announced two programs under AgriRecovery for drought-stricken farmers: the Livestock Feed and Transportation Drought Assistance program, which covers feed and feed transport costs; and the Livestock Transportation program, which covers the cost of breeding animals to feed.
Eichler also said a long-term cow herd recovery program was in the works, but gave few details.
The province pledged $62 million earlier in August. Shared 60-40 with the federal government, funds will total $155 million, said Eichler.
Eichler said this was “among the highest in the AgriRecovery assistance of our livestock and forage sectors in Manitoba’s history.”
The AgriRecovery programs put together after extreme flooding in 2011 totalled $194 million, according to a June 2011 CBC report, but these programs covered crop producers, nurseries, beekeepers, fruit producers and others.
KAP vice-president Jill Verwey thanked the government for supporting livestock producers.
“KAP appreciates the co-operation and commitment of farm organizations and all levels of government to address the challenges facing our producers across Manitoba,” she said. “We continue to meet as needs arise.”
The Livestock Feed and Transportation Drought Assistance program offers producers assistance to buy and test feed for eligible livestock and to haul feed from distant locations.
Producers must own or lease a minimum 10 eligible animals, by type, to apply. Breeding head of beef and dairy cattle, horses raised for pregnant mare urine (PMU), sheep, goats and bison are included in the program.
The farmer must own or lease the animals from June 1, 2021 up to March 15, 2022 and be responsible for expenses related to feeding them. The farmer may apply for aid on expenses incurred at any time between those dates, however, feed must be purchased, and it must be consumed during the overwintering period.
A producer share will be applied at $50 per head for beef and dairy cattle, bison and PMU horses, and $10 per head for sheep and goats. According to MARD’s website, payments will be equal to 75 per cent of the purchased cost of feed and feed testing that exceeds the producer share to a maximum per-head payment.
Maximum payment is $250 per head for cattle, bison, etc., and $50 for sheep and goats.
Feed transportation will be paid on hauls of a minimum 40 kilometres and maximum one-way distance of 600 km. It will be paid at 16 cents per tonne-kilometre for the first 100 km, and 10 cents per tonne-kilometre or up to an additional 500 km.
Producers must have spent at least $500 on eligible expense to claim them.
Under the Livestock Transportation Drought Assistance program, a producer must own at least 10 beef cattle, sheep or goats between June 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. They may claim expenses incurred between August 1 and June 30, 2022.
Assistance is available to cover transportation costs to move breeding animals to an alternate feeding location for winter feeding. Animals must travel a minimum distance of 40 km and a maximum one-way distance of 1,000 km — the return trip is also eligible.
Payments will be based on the number of animals and kilometres — beef cattle at eight cents per head per loaded kilometre, and three cents per head of sheep or goats per loaded kilometre.
The minimum eligible expense is $500.
The programs can be combined, excluding feed transportation, MARD says.
What was the ‘ask’?
When the Co-operator spoke to Manitoba Beef Producers on August 4, the group was advocating a per-head payment to cover the increased cost of feeding animals, but to allow farmers’ discretion in how it was spent.
“We think the producer in their given area should be able to determine what works best for their business decisions,” said general manager Carson Callum.
This was similar to the ask from the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, which voted to lobby for a $400-per-head payment for breeding animals, according to a July 29 Facebook post.
On August 5, Eichler said he also advocated for a per-head payment on a receipt basis.
For Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, feed assistance was a big part of the ask — transporting milking cattle to the feed is essentially a non-option, said DFM chair David Wiens.
When Wiens spoke to the Co-operator earlier in March, he said it wasn’t clear if dairy farmers would be included in AgriRecovery programs. They are included in the feed and feed transport program.
In early August, MBP said a two-pronged approach was needed — one prong to address current needs for feed, and another to address long-term recovery.
Eichler told the Co-operator he agreed, saying, “We need to continue to work. We need to continue to have a rebuild plan.”
At time of writing, it appears MBP will get that long-term recovery program though details were scant.
Eichler told media they were working with the federal government to build a program.
“We want to make sure we can try to maintain (the Manitoba cattle herd) the best we can,” Eichler said.
“When Tyler (Fulton) talks about genetics and rebuilding the herd, that takes a long time,” he added. “So we just want to work and partner with the federal government and our producers to ensure we have a program that will rebuild that herd.”
For its part, MBF indicated it was pleased with the announced programs.
“We itemized all of the different needs that producers had out there… and while we didn’t know how the program would look at the end of the day, I really feel like the province responded to our requests,” Fulton told the Co-operator.
“Really key is the whole herd rebuilding side,” he added, saying he was confident Eichler sees the need for that program.
“We know there are individual producers out there who had no choice, that needed to sell,” he said. “To penalize those who were forced to sell seems just not fair.”
The state of things
In hard-hit areas, cattle operations continue to hemorrhage.
Fulton told media they’ve seen an “unprecedented” number of animals, including breeding animals, going to market and this was by no means over.
“I suspect that we still haven’t seen the peak, even though these rains have moderated the grazing conditions,” he said.
Asked if producers have been able to wait on the funding announcement, Fulton said some producers were struggling to decide if feed expenses could be rationalized.
“With this program it will provide some of that certainty,” he said.
Dairy farmers are facing the same struggle to rationalize, and DFM was pleased to see the programs come together as soon as they did, said Wiens.
“We needed these announcements very soon just to give our dairy farmers, in this case, some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.