Last fall thousands of acres went unharvested because of wet conditions. How much crop was taken off between then and now is unknown, as are the number of acres still worth harvesting.
“From what we understand most producers really haven’t been able to address their unharvested acres in any fashion either to combine it, or destroy it, or whatever,” David Van Deynze, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) vice-president of innovation and product support, said in an interview April 14.
“From what I heard there was a little bit of combining happening about 10 days ago before those blizzardy few days that we had. I think it was getting really close at that time. But since then I’m not aware of anything happening to any real extent.
“I think largely speaking the overwintered acres are still there, and by and large in the same condition they’ve been most of the winter.”
It’s likely most of what has come off has been corn and sunflowers that stand above the snow-covered fields, Van Deynze said.
Anastasia Kubinec, manager of crop industry development at Agriculture and Resource Development agrees.
“I know corn and sunflowers that were out have had quite a few acres harvested, but cannot guess on the amount and don’t know about the other crop types,” she said in an email April 15.
Why it matters: For many farmers seeding will start with harvesting the last of last year’s crop.
As of Nov. 30, 2019, Manitoba farmers enrolled in the federal-provincial crop insurance program, AgriInsurance, collectively reported 417,059 acres of annual crop had not been harvested, Van Deynze said.
About 9.5 million acres of Manitoba crops are covered by AgriInsurance.
Eventually, MASC, which administers the program in Manitoba, will learn the fate of those acres, but as of April 14 it still wasn’t clear.
“For the most part we think and hope producers will attempt to harvest what they can this spring and then they will call us when they realize they can’t… because it’s flat or still under water or whatever the case may be and then we’ll get a little more involved at that point,” he said.
“We have tried to deal with the cases where farmers say there is no way to harvest — things like edible beans.
“Some of the cereals no doubt are flat, but not impossible to recover in some situations. There are some of those we’ll have to deal with.”
Van Deynze stressed MASC needs to estimate the yield and quality of crops before farmers destroy them. After being adjusted by MASC, farmers can decide whether they want to harvest or not. If they harvest and reap less than MASC estimated, farmers’ claims are adjusted accordingly.
Moreover, if MASC adjusted a crop in the fall, but the yield and/or quality of a crop is now thought to be worse, the field should be assessed again, he added. That could result in the farmer getting more compensation.
“We’re trying to do what we can to be as ready as we can so that when weather permits we can get out there,” Van Deynze said. “It really starts for us when farmers are able to start turning wheels.”
One farmer, who asked not to be named, said he’s trying to get a jump on the process by collecting canola from his unharvested field, hand threshing it and then submitting a sample to an elevator to get a grade.
“We’re seeing a lot of white seed so I think it heated in the swath,” the farmer said in an interview April 15.
This farmer’s field had 32 per cent hail damage in the fall and the bottom of the swath is rotted to the ground.
“I think we only had about a third of a crop to start with,” he said.
The farmer said he understands MASC wants to be sure farmers get as much crop off as they can if it’s worthwhile, but there isn’t a lot of time to do it. If the field is combined by April 27 there’s still time to seed, but if delayed to May 15 “that puts us on course for another crop insurance claim this fall because of delayed seeding,” the farmer said. “It becomes a vicious circle.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell, who farms at Minto, is worried about getting the 2020 crop seeded because his area is so wet. He also has crop to take off.
“I’ve got 80 acres of wheat that I don’t think I’ll ever get and 80 acres of oats,” he said in an interview April 14. “Better than half of that’s under water right now.
“The wheat is on some rolly land with rocks, and it’s two inches high. I ain’t getting it. I just spent $10,000 on my combine. I’m not going out to get a hopper full of wheat and spend another $20,000 to the fix the combine.”