The province is cutting $1 million in funding for a program that helps livestock producers meet its new manure-spreading regulations.
But a government spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn called the reduction “a savings and not a cut” because the Manure Management Financial Assistance Program (MMFAP), which runs until March 2014, had lower-than-anticipated uptake.
That assessment troubles the head of Keystone Agricultural Producers.
“That doesn’t hold much water with me,” said president Doug Chorney. “I’ve heard from a lot of members that they need this assistance to comply with the 2013 winter (manure) spreading ban.”
Some producers may not have applied to the program because they are dissatisfied with its terms, or may be planning to apply in the future, but have not yet had the time to do so, he said.
In any case, it’s too early to calculate uptake as there are nearly two years left in the program, he said.
“It would be cheaper for government to stop imposing regulations on agriculture,” said Chorney. “There is no commercial way to recover these costs.”
Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch declined to comment, saying his organization needs to examine the changes to assess their impact on hog producers.
Earlier this year, the province increased the portion of cost-share funding available to pig producers for manure treatment systems from 65 per cent to 75 per cent, and doubled the spending cap from $250,000 to $500,000.
The government spokeswoman said this was done to encourage MMFAP uptake.
“Producers interested in MMFAP shouldn’t delay participating because funding allocations are influenced by participation each year, and are not allocated as a lump sum,” she said.
Manure management wasn’t the only item affected by cuts to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, which has to reduce its spending by about $4.1 million as part of government cost-saving efforts.
Another $700,000 is coming from a one-time reduction in grants for various programs, including those supporting rural infrastructure development. Which programs will be affected is not yet clear.
“We’ve asked the government and we’re not getting any answers,” said Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. “Where is the money? Are the programs cut? What’s going on here?”
Many of the programs announced in this year’s budget have not yet received funding, leaving municipalities in limbo for cost-share programs, he said.
“The trouble is that a lot of these programs were summer programs, and we’re into the fall now,” said Dobrowolski.
As well, Hometown Manitoba grants for rural communities will lose $222,000 in funding, while the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie will have to increase cost recovery from its users.
In all, Finance Minister Stan Struthers announced $66 million worth of cuts on Oct. 1. Another $62 million in spending reductions are needed if the province is to keep its projected deficit of $460 million in check.