Manitoba Cattle Producers Association (MCPA) president Major Jay Fox is optimistic an aid program will be announced by month’s end for cattle farmers struggling in the wake of excess moisture.
Fox met with Manitoba Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers Aug. 17. Following the meeting, Struthers said in a news release “the province will continue to monitor the ongoing livestock feed situation and engage federal counterparts in order to develop appropriate programming for producers affected by excess moisture.”
In an interview Aug. 20 Fox said he expects a federal-provincial assistance program will be announced, but added he doesn’t know the details.
“We are encouraged by this but we’re cautious about what might come down the line,” he said.
SLOWED WEIGHT GAINS
Fox estimates 3,000 to 5,000 of Manitoba’s 10,000 cattle producers are struggling with excess moisture, which has slowed weight gain for calves, reduced pasture and winter hay supplies.
“We would hope that Minister Struthers and all of cabinet would see the need out there on the landscape and see the producers that are in dire straits,” Fox said. “These producers don’t know how they’re going to make it through the year.
“We are asking for some help so we have a viable industry in the future.”
The MCPA presented Struthers with both short-and long-term measures to assist cattle producers. The short-term measures include a per-cow payment to offset income lost due to lower calf weights, feed freight assistance to get cattle feed to those who are short and a deferral on income taxes for farmers forced to sell all or part of the herds, making it easier to buy back in later.
Sensible drainage policies and hay and pasture insurance and live cattle insurance are the long-term policies the MCPA wants.
Early last month a $450-million federal-provincial program was announced to assist waterlogged western Canadian grains farmers. Sixty million of those dollars were allocated to Manitoba under the Canada-Manitoba Excess Moisture Assistance Program. Under the program grain farmers could apply for $30 an acre where crops were destroyed by excess moisture.
The MCPA has been lobbying for equal treatment for cattle producers. Fox acknowledged part of the problem is measuring the impact on cattle producers. With 85 per cent of Manitoba’s cropland covered under crop insurance it was easier getting a handle on the extent of the damage.
“If you had those insurances (for hay, pasture and live cattle) in place and they were sensibly put together so producers would partake in them… then the government has in its hands the ability to measure the losses on the landscape at a faster rate,” Fox said. “Right now the cattle industry does not have that and the grain industry does.”
In January, Struthers announced the launch of the Pasture Days Insurance Pilot Program developed by Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation in conjunction with the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, Manitoba Forage Council and Keystone Agricultural Producers. The pilot program will investigate the viability of insuring against having to remove animals from pasture before a certain number of grazing days due to drought or excess moisture.
Live cattle insurance would allow farmers to lock in prices based on futures prices.
Fox also wants “responsible” drainage. Grain farmers understandably want to drain their fields quickly so they can seed them quickly in the spring, he said. But often that water ends up on cattle farms.
“Our production is slowed because somebody else’s production is sped up,” Fox said. “So what we need to do is have proper drainage and move that water in a responsible manner.”
Some parts of Manitoba such as north of Dauphin received record rainfalls this spring, Fox said. Others like Westlake and the Interlake have been swamped three years in a row.
“We see a need to put a program out there right now because there is no program, but we hope in the long term that we have hay and pasture insurance and live cattle insurance to mitigate the losses on the landscape,” he said.
Meanwhile, Struthers is urging farmers looking for feed to register at Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ (MAFRI) web-site www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/production under the Interactive Features menu on the right. It allows the buyer to search for hay under the categories of bale type, hay type and location. Price is also part of the listing. An interactive map helps in locating producers in each area.
Producers with hay and straw for sale can have their name added to the list by contacting their local MAFRI GO office at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/contact/agof fices. html. Buyers or producers can also obtain this information or post their names through their local MAFRI GO office. [email protected]
“These producers don’t know how they’re going to make it through the year.”
–MAJOR JAY FOX