Manitoba cattle price insurance in the works

Hidden in Manitoba Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk’s 2011-12 budget is a $200,000 allocation for cattle insurance.

The Manitoba government has set aside $200,000 for a livestock insurance pilot program for the province’s cattle producers.

The allocation is hidden in the 2011-12 provincial budget Wowchuk brought down April 12.

The Co-operator learned about it during briefings by Treasury Board officials in a media lockup prior to Wowchuk’s budget speech in the legislature.

Wowchuk’s speech did not announce the program other than to say that the province is “working to develop a range of livestock insurance programs to support producers.”

But provincial Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers later confirmed the allocation is included in a $6.87 million funding increase to the province’s AgriInsurance program.

Struthers said the $200,000 set-aside is the province’s share of a planned pilot project to insure cattle producers against sudden drops in market prices, similar to one operating in Alberta for several years.

Manitoba would like Ottawa to contribute another $300,000, based on a traditional 60:40 federal-provincial funding split, to make the program worth $500,000 in total.

The province is also open to co-operating with Alberta and Saskatchewan in a Prairie-wide cattle insurance program, said Struthers.

“Manitoba is willing to team up with anyone to offer especially a cow-calf insurance program.”

But if neither option works out, Manitoba will go it alone, he said.

“We think we can move forward with a plan based on the $200,000. We can enhance that pilot project if the federal government would be involved, too,” said Struthers.

Struthers could not say when the pilot might be launched. Discussions with Ottawa are currently on hold during the federal election campaign.

But he said the province intends to resume negotiations immediately after the May 2 election results are known.

The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp. will administer the program, as it does with all other farm production insurance programs.

Livestock production insurance is a priority for Manitoba’s cattle producers. Manitoba Beef Producers has lobbied tirelessly for it, demanding something to put cattle farmers on an equal footing with grain growers who have crop insurance.

MBP issued a statement following the budget expressing disappointment that the budget “failed to announce any specific insurance program for Manitoba’s struggling livestock sector.”

— Ron Friesen is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator in Winnipeg. Condensed from Manitoba Co-operator, April 21, 2011, page 1.

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