When you count all the issues facing Manitoba farmers, you would never know they are part of an industry that contributes, directly and indirectly, 11 to 12 percent of GDP to their province.
Manitoba is under significant economic pressure at present, but its government must try to more adequately support the very people who provide considerable economic heft.
Part of the problem in Manitoba’s economy, of course, remains the devastating flood of 2011. Farmers are still struggling to get back on track after the government purposely opened a flood diversion at Hoop and Holler Bend near Portage la Prairie and put both crop and range land under water. Many farmers still have not been fully compensated for the many costs associated with flooding.
Angry farmers recently protested opening the diversion a second time a few weeks ago. The obstruction was brief, but the government publicly denounced the action and launched legal action against two of the protesting farmers before retracting.
Manitoba has not been entirely friendly to hog farmers either, even as they struggle with high feed prices and low returns. They have been restricted from growing their operations and lambasted for contributing to the pollution of Lake Winnipeg, even though theirs is a small contribution.
Then, in April, the Manitoba Pork Council was told that the government would not support its plan for a stabilization program, which would provide hog farmers with up to $75 million in loans from a government-backed line of credit. It would be short-term money, which farmers would repay through a $5 per head checkoff when their operations become profitable again.
Meanwhile, producers are becoming increasingly frustrated with oil companies, and are demanding some oversight from the province on leaks and spills. Expediting a system of protection for landowners is the least the government could do.
The Manitoba government must begin to see that if farmers are not doing well, neither is the province — and that includes Winnipeg, where part of the urban economy is reliant on rural activity.
Granted, the weather has not been kind to Manitoba. Granted, most of the votes come out of the big city. But the government must speed up protection for farmers on several fronts, and treat them like the economic drivers they are.