Interlake’s 2008 soaking earns more aid funds

Farmers and other residents of Manitoba’s Interlake and Westlake regions who took the brunt of overland flooding from heavy rains in 2008 are now eligible for more disaster financial assistance.

The provincial government on Tuesday announced DFA program funds for the flooding last August and September will increase to $3 million from $670,000.

“The provincial government has more information on the extent of claims and damages filed by municipalities, small businesses, farms and private individuals,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steven Ashton said in a release.

These funds are on top of agricultural assistance programs managed by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, he said.

The increase makes up to $3 million available for infrastructure, private property and farm damage including bales, as well as land restoration needed as a result of heavy rains throughout the Interlake and Westlake from Aug. 20 to Sept. 2.

The Interlake is the region of southern and central Manitoba between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba; the Westlake region comes up the west side of Lake Manitoba.

“This financial commitment will help producers in the Interlake as they get ready to start another busy growing season,” Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said in the same release.

“The hardships producers endured due to overland flooding last year were significant, but our government has been there every step of the way and today we are building on our commitment to provide help to producers in the Interlake.”

“We’re pleased the government is building on its support for farmers in the Interlake and Westlake areas, particularly by recognizing the need for additional land restoration assistance,” said Ian Wishart, president of Manitoba’s general farm group, Keystone Agricultural Producers, in a separate release.

KAP, he said, looks forward to more details on the funding available for land restoration and hoped it would also go toward compensation for producers who experienced damage to annual crop fields.

“Hopefully this increased assistance will give some relief to producers who could not take advantage of other programs,” said Wishart, who farms near Portage la Prairie.

DFA is generally intended to cover evacuation costs, costs to prevent or limit imminent damage and non-insurable damage to essential property such as principal residences, buildings and other non-insurable losses essential to the operation of eligible farms and small businesses.

Individuals are encouraged to seek assistance first through individual insurance claims.

The province had already established a preliminary program for the rural municipalities (RMs) of Alonsa, Armstrong, Bifrost, Eriksdale, Fisher, Gimli, Grahamdale and Siglunes.

The provincial and federal governments have also previously announced a number of related programs for the region, including the Manitoba Forage Assistance Program last fall, and Forage Restoration and Livestock Feed Assistance programs last month.

The federal government last month also broadened its tax deferral program, usually available strictly to farmers who were forced to sell breeding livestock in a drought year.

The program was expanded to include producers in regions where hay, forage and pasture fields are drowned out, making it difficult for producers to obtain feed for livestock and to re-establish feed crops. It allows affected producers to defer payment of a portion of income tax owing on the sale of breeding stock.

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