Drought-stricken farmers need cash, not talk: NDP

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The Manitoba NDP says the Pallister government needs to go beyond consultations and immediately provide cash to farmers facing a historic drought.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/07/2021 (514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Manitoba NDP says the Pallister government needs to go beyond consultations and immediately provide cash to farmers facing a historic drought.

“The government should respond and act immediately, right now, because thousands need the help today,” NDP agriculture critic Diljeet Brar told reporters Monday.

The Canadian Drought Monitor places many parts of southern Manitoba under the highest of its five levels of severity.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Tom Johnson, a cattle farmer near Oak Point north of Winnipeg, is experiencing drought conditions. Meteorologists say the Winnipeg area has had only minor rainfall over the past month, during which much of Western Canada has faced a heat wave.

Meteorologists say the Winnipeg area has had only minor rainfall over the past month, during which much of Western Canada has faced a heat wave.

Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen held a call about the drought last Thursday with three major agriculture groups, as well as the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

“It’s a difficult time for everybody and there are many individual circumstances, but we’re going to do our best to address the situation as it is currently,” Pedersen told reporters last week.

He said the immediate issue is ensuring cows have enough to eat to maintain herds over the coming years. The province has opened up unleased Crown lands, and reached out to organizations that own pasture to see if it can be made available as hay land.

Pedersen said the province will look at what the grain sector needs, and noted some tweaks made to the AgriStability risk-management program.

Yet the NDP has been asking since April for the province to take up the Trudeau government’s January offer to vastly extend that cost-shared program, which would effectively raise farmer payouts by 50 per cent. They also called for help with feed-transportation costs and suspending an increase to Crown land leases.

“The producers need help right now,” Brar said. “They are stressed, especially Crown-land leasers.”

Pedersen’s office said solutions are in the works, and did not address the NDP’s specific demands.

Keystone Agricultural Producers, which was part of last week’s call, said they’re generally satisfied with the government’s pace and the depth of consultations, because farmers wanted to hold out for more rain before seeking help.

“It’s been a dry year, we’ve seen some difficult conditions. But in agriculture it’s tough to sound the alarm immediately; you need some time to monitor,” said spokesman Graham Schellenberg.

“We’re coming to the point now where producers… are starting to consider other options; there’s been talk of early harvest, or destroyed crops from the high temperatures.”

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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