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More Rain, More Calls For Aid

Calls for government aid to assist rain-soaked farmers are getting louder.

And that was before rains of up to 100 mm hit parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan late last week, adding to the precipitation – in some places double and triple the norm – that has already fallen this spring.

Meanwhile, crop diseases appear to be getting worse. (See Crops, page 17.)

The southwest was hardest hit in Manitoba, said Andy Nadler, an agricultural meteorologist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI). Wawanesa and Pierson received almost 77 and 76 mm (three inches) between June 17 and 8 a. m. June 18.

“Killarney, within one hour, had 40.6 mm (June 17),” Nadler said. “It must have been just solid. That’s almost two inches in an hour.”

One unofficial report said Ninette received 100 mm.

Parts of the long-suffering Interlake received 33 mm, but at least not the 75 mm that was forecast.

The same storm dumped on Saskatchewan, shutting down the Trans-Canada Highway near Maple Creek – often one of the driest areas in the West.

Earlier in the week, Manitoba Premier Selinger and his Saskatchewan and Alberta counterparts said they raised the excess moisture issue with federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“Although we have programs in place to assist in times of need, governments have to work together to make sure our farmers get the help they require under these challenging conditions,” Selinger said in a release from the Western Premiers’ Conference in Vancouver.

An estimated nine million acres or 30 per cent of

“Killarney, within one hour, had 40.6 mm (June 17). It must have been just solid. That’s almost two inches in an hour.”

– ANDY NADLER

Saskatchewan’s farmland will not get seeded before crop insurance deadlines, Premier Brad Wall said.

Selinger said 30 per cent or 1.35 million acres of Manitoba’s farmland won’t get seeded, rivalling the record 1.4 million acres set in 2005. (Some observers believe only five to 10 per cent – 500,000 to 750,000 – of Manitoba acres didn’t get planted.)

Futures prices for wheat, oats and canola jumped last week because of reduced plantings across the West.

Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) president Ian Wishart is pleased the premiers are paying attention. KAP, like the Manitoba government, isn’t sure of the extent of the damage yet. That will become clearer this week as the Manitoba Agricultural Service Corporation (MASC) receives excess moisture claims and begins appraising the damage done to flooded crops. But Wishart said in an interview it’s clear ad hoc assistance will be needed.

The problem with AgriRecovery is farmers can’t predict how much aid they’ll get and it won’t come quickly, he said.

“We just nicely got the money for the losses in the Interlake last summer under AgriRecovery,” Wishart said. “I think it was only a couple of weeks ago that Minister Ritz was standing in the rain giving out compensation for drought (last year) in Alberta…”

Wishart said the $50 an acre farmers get under crop insurance for unseeded land should be increased. It hasn’t been raised since 2001.

KAP also wants a Conservation Crop Cover program. Farmers need at least $30 an acre, but should get an extra $10 if they plant nitrogen-fixing crops like clover, sainfoin or black medic, Wishart said.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) wants the federal and provincial governments to “kick-start” AgriRecovery.

“If there was ever a time when this program was legitimately needed, that time is now,” APAS president Greg Marshall said in a release. “With the excessive moisture conditions that have affected seeding in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the widespread feeling amongst farmers and ranchers is that 2010 proves that current programs and coverage are woefully inadequate.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz saw some of the devastation in Saskatchewan for himself June 16.

“Crop insurance and AgriStability are the first lines of defence and the best way to deliver help fast so we’re working with our provincial colleagues to make sure farmers get the help they need as soon as possible,” he said in a statement

“We know farmers are in a tough situation and governments are working together to make sure farmers get the help they need.”

As of June 18, MASC had received 1,400 reseeding claims, said David Van Deynze, MASC’s manager of claim services. Its Sanford office, one of 19, received the most at 300.

Surprisingly, last year there were slightly more reseeding claims – 1,434 – but for very different reasons. A lot of winter wheat didn’t survive the winter and frost June 6, 2009 destroyed a lot of canola.

The figures weren’t in last week, but presumably fewer acres than last year were reseeded. What wasn’t seeded before the rain June 17 probably didn’t get seeded by the June 20 crop insurance deadline. [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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