Manitoba rolls out flood compensation programs

Compensation programs have been set up for Manitoba farmers and ranchers who took financial hits from flooding this spring, the opening of a permanent dike on the Assiniboine River, high water in the Shoal Lakes region or livestock losses in the pre-flood snowstorm.

The province on Tuesday announced its compensation packages as well as a regime of infrastructure work and residential- and business-level flood mitigation programs.

Among the programs of immediate interest to farmers and ranchers in affected areas are:

Lake Manitoba Pasture Flooding Assistance Program

The program will include financial assistance aimed at helping producers to remain in business by covering some costs to rent alternative pastures or feeding sites and to transport feed and livestock.

Eligible animals under the Lake Manitoba program include cattle, bison, elk, sheep, goats, llamas, alpaca and horses. Payment rates will depend on the species; the maximum payment will be $100 for a cow-calf pair.

The larger Lake Manitoba program also includes an infrastructure component, offering assistance for flood mitigation measures to protect property used for agricultural production; assistance for damage to agricultural infrastructure and inventory, and to improved agricultural land; and assistance for damage to pasture and facilities used to house livestock evacuated from the flood zone.

There will be no deductible for damage to livestock premises, the province said, and compensation will be based on the “reasonable cost of repairs or replacement.”

Higher-than-normal flows on nearly all rivers and streams in southern Manitoba have caused increased levels on Manitoba lakes. On Lake Manitoba, the peak level is expected around mid-June and the lake’s level will continue to rise until then, the province said Tuesday.

Special Livestock Mortality Program

This program is for producers whose herds took death losses in the April 29-30 blizzard and rainstorm that hit several regions of the province About 2,000 animals are estimated to have died in the storms.

Assistance will be based on the number of head lost at market value, the province said. Eligible animals include beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, elk, sheep, goats, llamas and horses used for the production of meat or pregnant mare urine.  Purebred livestock will be compensated at a rate 1.5 times higher than commercial production, the province added.

Applications for assistance under the Special Livestock Mortality Program are available at the provincial ag department’s local GO offices and must be completed by June 30.

Shoal Lakes program

The program offers “flood-related compensation assistance” for producers in that region who lost income of hay and pasture land in 2010 and 2011, and help covering transportation costs related to moving animals and feed threatened by flood waters.

The Shoal Lakes program will also include a voluntary buyout program, with transitional assistance for an additional year for producers hit by high water levels, provincial Ag Minister Stan Struthers said Tuesday. Over $22 million is budgeted for the Shoal Lakes program over three years.

Provincial ag department staff will work with “severely affected” producers in the area and will help with getting needed feed to livestock, the province said.

Hoop and Holler Compensation Program

The Manitoba government plans to provide “100 per cent support for families, businesses and producers” to restore homes and properties in the area of Hoop and Holler Bend, where the province knocked a hole in its dike on the Assiniboine River from May 14 to 20.

The province’s “controlled breach” was aimed at limiting the potential for property damage due to overflows or other dike breaches in the Portage Diversion flood protection system.

There will be no deductible under the Hoop and Holler program for damage to livestock premises, crop losses or land clean-up. “Multi-year impacts” on perennial crops, as well as impacts on inventory and infrastructure will be included, the province said.

Amounts received through other government and non-government sources to cover losses may be deducted from program payments. Advance payments for flood mitigation measures or property damage may be made.

The Hoop and Holler program is also expected to offer compensation for expenses including lost wages incurred as a result of protecting and restoring property from flood damage; employment and business income loss and, in some cases, expected business-income losses in future years.

Economic Stimulus Program

The province has budgeted $1 million to “encourage projects aimed at reducing the economic effects of flooding for communities, First Nations and industry,” to be delivered by the provincial agriculture, food and rural initiatives department to organizations that support rural economic development, up to $100,000 per organization.

“Existing expertise”

A special unit within the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp. (MASC) at Portage la Prairie will deliver the ag-related programs using “existing expertise” to process claims, and an “independent process” to handle any appeals, the province said.

The new farm compensation and flood protection measures are part of a larger $175 million funding package Premier Greg Selinger announced Tuesday.

Details of the province’s larger “Building and Recovery Action Plan” are also being shared with the federal government, for “review and consideration of possible federal participation,” the government said Tuesday.

“The government is showing us that it is making compensation a priority and we believe these are beneficial initiatives for Manitoba farmers,” Doug Chorney, president of Manitoba’s general farm organization, Keystone Agricultural Producers, said in a separate release.

While thanking the province for the added support in various regions, KAP also asked Tuesday “that the focus be broadened to include other parts of the province that are also being hit hard by flooding,” said Chorney, who farms at East Selkirk, Man.

“The fear is always that some farmers will be left out, and we don’t want that to be the case so we are calling for excess moisture insurance to be increased from $50 per acre to $70 per acre, and for those farmers who bought coverage up to $65 to see it increased to $85 per acre.”

KAP also made note of the “additional measures” the province announced Tuesday for flood mitigation in various communities and municipalities and urged that a provincewide water strategy be developed to help manage the landscape.

“This flooding crisis has seen many ranchers with hay, forage and pasture fields and homes drowned out, having to evacuate their herds and homes in exigent circumstances,” Manitoba Beef Producers president Major Jay Fox said in a separate release.

“Some will be unable to return potentially for a number of years. Others will be affected by difficulty obtaining feed for their livestock and re-establish feed crops.”

While more details are still to come, “we are very pleased that this urgent funding will allow producers to recover losses from livestock mortality, pasture damages and restoration and will enable producers to further manage and plan for necessary transportation, feed and further recovery,” Fox said.

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