Adispute over drought assistance to southwestern Manitoba cattle producers has created a split on the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association board of directors.
Brian Sterling, MCPA’s District 1 director, recently announced his resignation from the board. District 1 includes the extreme southwestern corner of the province where drought has produced a severe livestock feed shortage.
Sterling indicated his sudden resignation stemmed from frustration with the MCPA board over its handling of a demand for government feed assistance.
“It would have a major role in it,” he said. “It’s safe to say we had a disagreement.”
However, MCPA president Joe Bouchard said the board has done its best to obtain an emergency feed assistance program for producers in the drought zone.
“We’ve probably given that more effort than anything,” Bouchard said. “There’s just not a will from government to do something.”
Although Sterling said two months ago he was resigning, he is still technically an MCPA director, said Bouchard. Sterling hasn’t submitted a formal letter of resignation, as required by MCPA bylaws. A director who fails to attend three consecutive monthly board meetings automatically loses his or her position, but Sterling has so far only missed the June meeting.
Bouchard said he has spoken to Sterling and hopes he will return.
Sterling is halfway through a two-year term. MCPA can appoint an interim director or wait for the annual fall district meeting to elect a replacement.
At issue is MCPA’s lobbying efforts for a feed assistance program similar to one received by Interlake cattle producers affected by flooding in 2008.
Producers in parts of the Interlake and Westlake regions received payments of $70 per head for feed purchases from a one-time federal-provincial program. Producers in the southwest say they should get the same treatment because they are short of feed, too.
But Bouchard said government will not consider the request.
“We‘ve tried everything. They just do not want to do that,” he said. “We’ve just been beating our heads against a wall.”
MCPA met with producers in Melita June 23 to discuss the situation.
Southwest producers did receive a tax concession allowing them to defer income tax on cattle sales for one year. The measure, normally reserved for drought victims, was also extended to flooded Interlake producers.
But the province says it cannot extend feed assistance to the southwest because technically it isn’t a drought region, said Bouchard. Timely rains last year produced above-average crops, although precipitation came too late to save pastures and grasslands.
Sterling said pastures are no better this year because of a cold, late spring. A first hay cut will be “significantly less, if it’s there at all.”
He said the region has seen a “major disappearance of cattle” as producers cull their herds and leave the business.
“It’s just about an exodus from the area.”
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives officials were in the region last week to look at the situation and see what can be done. “We’re still working on it,” one official said. [email protected]