Months of calls for aid for Manitoba’s waterlogged livestock producers have led to a two-pronged pre-Christmas announcement of public funds to help them source and haul feed to their animals this winter.
Application forms are already available online for the Canada-Manitoba Feed and Transportation Assistance Program, announced Friday in Winnipeg.
“Conditions this year have made access to feed supplies extremely challenging for the livestock producers who grow and depend on them, particularly those in the Interlake region who have been dealing with multiple years of excess moisture,” provincial Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers said.
“Livestock producers expect to deal with difficult weather from time to time, but this year’s extremely wet conditions will greatly impact available feed in Manitoba this winter,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said at the same announcement.
The governments, he said, “have worked together to respond as quickly as possible so producers can manage their cash flow and begin to buy and truck in additional feed to carry them through the winter.”
According to a release Friday from Manitoba’s general farm organization, Keystone Agricultural Producers, Ritz has stated up to $18 million will be available for this programming.
However, KAP said, it’s emerged in talks with Struthers that this program will be covered by funds “reprofiled” from Manitoba’s $60 million share of the federal-provincial grains and oilseeds excess moisture relief package announced in July.
“Though this is not new funding, we are pleased to see that most of the money that was promised earlier in the year is going to get spent and that these dollars will now go to help livestock producers who are experiencing declining negative margins,” Rob Brunel, KAP’s president and a Ste. Rose du Lac grain grower, said in the group’s release.
Payments under this program are considered eligible revenue in calculating margins under the AgriStability program, the governments said, thus making sure producers “are not compensated twice for the same loss.”
The federal/provincial package’s transportation assistance component will provide 22 cents per metric tonne per loaded mile for producers who have to haul straw, hay and/or greenfeed to livestock.
Eligible loads of silage will be covered for 16 cents per tonne per loaded mile, and concentrate for 12 cents per tonne per loaded mile.
Alternately, the transportation component offers 10 cents per head per loaded mile to producers who need to haul breeding cattle, bulls, bison, elk or horses to feed at distances “greater than normally expected due to excess moisture.”
The program will also pay six cents per head per loaded mile to haul calves and four cents per head per loaded mile to haul sheep and goats for the same purpose.
The new program’s feed component, meanwhile, will pay up to $30 per ton (in this case, per short ton, meaning 2,000 pounds or about 907 kilograms) based on an “identified forage shortage,” to help farmers who normally grow their own forage to buy enough feed to sustain breeding stock.
To be eligible for the feed aid component, a producer will have to visit a Manitoba agriculture department GO office to have his or her “forage shortfall” assessed.
To work out that figure, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) will consider a farmer’s production and capacity to produce forage; his or her number of eligible animals; the quality of forage produced based on “individual or regional factors;” a farm’s “normal” production of forage for eligible animals and market animals; and a farm’s forage requirement for its eligible animals for their feeding period.
Once MAFRI calculates an eligible producer’s forage shortfall in tons, a program deductible, worth 10 per cent of the eligible animals’ forage requirement, will be docked from that shortfall. The program payment will be $30 per remaining ton.
Under this program, eligible producers may also be able to get a break on the cost of feed-testing their forage samples.
Details are available at a MAFRI GO office but generally, producers will be able to get a maximum of three samples tested for up to half the normal testing cost, a discount worth up to $16 per sample.
While KAP, Manitoba Beef Producers and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association cheered the funding in their statements Friday and had praise for the two governments, the ongoing suspense between the bulk of the rains and Friday’s announcement did not go unnoticed.
Ritz noted it himself in his announcement, saying this year’s rain-delayed harvests “delayed the assessment of damage.”
“It is unfortunate for producers and the province as a whole that the program was not delivered earlier in 2010, as some producers who decided to reduce their herds or exit the industry could have benefited from this programming,” KAP wrote. “Those producers could have used this programming to help them sustain their operations through the winter and further into 2011.”
Manitoba Beef Producers described 2010 as “a year that many would rather forget” and noted that while many producers had trouble sourcing feed and re-establishing feed crops, “others, who were not able to wait for (Friday’s) announcement, were for the same reasons forced to sell their herds.”
“Unfortunately, not every one of them has been able to hang on through the wait, and that’s been frustrating,” MBP president Jay Fox of Eddystone said in his group’s release.
“For those guys, the tax deferral program announced earlier last month will be of benefit. But there are guys out there who will benefit from this announcement and for them we seek the continued support of government through the swift implementation of the program and its necessary details.”
CORRECTION FROM SOURCE, Dec. 17: According to the federal and provincial governments, payments under the Canada-Manitoba Feed and Transportation Assistance Program are considered eligible revenue when calculating margins under the AgriStability program. The governments’ original statement incorrectly said the payments would be considered “eligible expenses” under AgriStability.