The next wave of showers in the forecast hadn’t started, but last week farmers in the Souris area were conceding defeat in their fight to get a crop seeded before the June 20 deadline.
“People have so-called washed their hands of it now,” said Walter Finlay, who as of June 10 hadn’t seeded any of his 2,900 acres.
“I was talking to a fellow this morning who said he had a 30-acre dry piece but there’s no way he can get to it, it’s just that wet.”
Finlay, who is also municipal councillor, said many roads are washed out or impassable due to flooding.
“We’re looking for answers from the government because the RM cannot afford what it’s going to cost us,” he said. “It’s mega, mega, mega bucks for what we’re going to have to spend for roads.”
Finlay predicts retailers across the province will feel the economic fallout from the drop in seeded acres and the loss of farm income that will follow.
Meanwhile, flood forecasters feared the rain could strain the Assiniboine River Portage Diversion and the dikes downstream, already tested by the worst flood in 350 years. The Manitoba government might have to cut the dike at Hoop and Holler bend near Portage la Prairie again to take some of the pressure off, Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton said last week.
Farmers in less wet areas around the province scrambled to seed what they could ahead of the rain. Still, Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) president Doug Chorney estimates as many as five million acres won’t be planted by June 20. That would shatter the previous record of 1.4 million set in 2005.
Five million acres represents about 43 per cent of the province’s 11.6 million acres of cultivated land.
KAP had been asking the Manitoba government to retroactively boost Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI) coverage to $85 and $75 an acre from $65 and $50. But now the general farm organization wants an AgriRecovery program similar to last year’s, but with payouts on unseeded and drowned fields of $50 an acre instead of $30.
“This year with many farmers with nothing seeded, it will be very difficult for them to see their way to 2012,” Chorney said.
Farm input costs are up 25 per cent from 2010, justifying a $50-an-acre payment, he added.
The National Farmers Union is also calling for a $50-an-acre payment, but limited to a maximum of 2,500 acres per farm.
“There is clearly an unprecedented disaster going on in a good portion of the Prairie region,” said NFU president Terry Boehm. “It is imperative that the federal government provide assistance to these farmers to get them through the year. This could be an insurmountable situation for them.”
While much of southern Manitoba received rain May 31, the southwest, already sodden due to above-normal precipitation last summer and winter and this spring, was deluged. Deloraine and Souris for example recorded 93 and 88 mm, respectively.
Many parts of the southwest have received at least 200 per cent of normal rainfall from May 1 to June 5, according to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiative’s weekly crop weather report. But Hamiota and Shoal Lake, which had 175 and 191 mm during that brief period, are at 345 and 319 per cent of the 30-year normal.
Meanwhile, this latest rain will increase the expected record-high water level on Lake Manitoba where many ranchers have been forced to move their cattle to higher ground. In addition to the compensation already promised by the Manitoba government, which includes assistance to move cattle and buy feed, some such as Tom Teichroeb of Langruth are asking the government to buy them out.
The province has offered that option to farmers in the Shoal Lakes area, but that’s a special situation because of the high cost and downstream damage of providing drainage to the area, Ashton said June 10 during a flood briefing.
“Our main goal quite frankly is the immediate impacts, but we’re not ruling out buyouts, but again I want to stress our No. 1 goal is flood protection and flood recovery,” he said. “Buyouts are really when there’s no other option available.”
As of June 10 the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) estimated 80 per cent of Western Canada’s crop was seeded, said Bruce Burnett, the CWB’s director of weather and market analysis. Ironically parts of the northern Prairies are too dry, he said.
“There’s a chance some acres will go into shorter-season crops but it looks like these wet areas we’re just not going to get them planted,” he said. “It’s a pity at any time but when prices are high it exacerbates the pain. And then there’s the quality risk on the back end. That will be the other question mark.”
Farmers filing an EMI claim must do so by June 22 to avoid a late filing penalty. Farmers who know they won’t be planting by June 20 should file their Seed Acreage Report and EMI claim right away, said David Koroscil manager of Manitoba Agricultural Service Corporation’s insurance projects and sales. [email protected]
– Terry Boehm