Manitoba feed program proceeds without provincial share

Ottawa takes unusual step of proceeding with the subsidy program despite province’s refusal to contribute its 40 percent

Manitoba beef cattle producers will soon be able to get feed subsidies from a federal-provincial program, says Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen.

But the money is 40 percent less than it would have been because Manitoba isn’t providing its usual share of this sort of program, which alarms Manitoba’s main farmer organizations.

“Manitoba Beef Producers is disappointed the Manitoba government is not contributing its 40 percent share toward the Canada-Manitoba Finished Cattle Feed Assistance Program under AgriRecovery,” said MBP general manager Carson Callum.

“MBP thanks the federal government for making its 60 percent contribution available under AgriRecovery and recognizes the provincial government for administering it.”

Putting in its share without requiring the provincial 40 percent is a significant break from normal federal government policy, but this money comes from the federal government’s previously announced willingness to be flexible in how it extends emergency aid for farmers affected by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 forced a bottleneck in our processing plants and a backup in demand that caused stress and added costs on our cattle producers,” said federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

“With today’s announcement, our government is directly helping Manitoba cattle producers with added costs they faced during these unprecedented times.”

The program provides farmers with $1.20 per day per animal to help farmers forced to hold back cattle from normal marketing due to the pandemic backlog. The program will have $2.5 million in funding, but how much gets distributed depends on farmer applications.

Pedersen said Manitoba Agriculture is committed to getting the money out fast.

“It’s going to be a very quick turnaround,” he said.

But he pointed his finger at MBP and Keystone Agricultural Producers for the provincial portion being missing.

“I gave a proposal to both (KAP) and (MBP) as to how Manitoba could contribute their 40 percent in here and they both rejected it,” said Pedersen.

“We would have liked to have contributed to this program.”

KAP and MBP both said neither had been consulted after an initial discussion in June, in which both resisted Manitoba Agriculture’s suggestion of transferring money out of AgriInvest to pay for the AgriRecovery feed program.

“There was no communication for the last four months,” said Patty Rosher, general manager of KAP.

“We all agreed that (taking AgriInvest money for all farmers to fund the feed program under AgriRecovery) was not appropriate…. You can’t just transfer money from one to the other. We said, ‘no, we don’t think that’s a good idea.’ And that’s the last we heard.”

The Manitoba government, like all provincial governments, has faced major budget shortfalls since the pandemic crushed tax revenue.

However, Alberta and Saskatchewan found money for their shares of AgriRecovery feed assistance programs, providing producers in those provinces with $2 per day.

While Manitoba did not support the AgriRecovery program with a provincial share, Pedersen announced and re-announced Oct. 16 several measures to support cattle producers.

Those include money for beef and forage initiatives, predator control, forage insurance, silage corn and transportation allowances.

Pedersen also encouraged farmers to submit comments about legacy leases.

Farmers with crown leases on land in municipalities that declared states of emergency due to weather conditions are also receiving 20 percent credits from 2019 on 2021 lease renewals, Pedersen said.

“This is to alleviate the feed shortages that happened in those areas,” said Pedersen.

“It’s just our way of helping the beef producers in those hard-hit municipalities.”

Rosher said KAP is happy to see the federal feed aid, but is concerned about the lack of Manitoba government money.

“We wonder if the precedent has been set,” said Rosher.

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