It was heartening to see signs of governments helping farmers in crisis.
“This bit of help from the government, it’ll be a godsend for the beekeepers that just don’t have the cash,” said beekeeper Paul Gregory, who farms bees and forage seed in Manitoba’s drought-beset Interlake region, as provincial/federal safety net cash was made available Sept. 1.
Western Manitoba cattle producer Tyler Fulton was also happy to see governments work fast to get farmers support, as many producers were facing the prospect of having to sell cows and heifers for want of forage and feed.
“We thank both levels of government for recognizing the severity of the disaster and enacting AgriRecovery (the disaster payment program),” said Fulton as he stood beside the Manitoba agriculture minister, with the striding Golden Boy high over their left shoulders atop the legislature.
The money being rushed out will help farmers buy feed, transport feed, and even move cattle to greener pastures. That’s all direly needed in the worst ravaged areas like the Interlake.
It’s easy to trash governments for whatever they do. They do too little. They do too much. They do it too late. Whatever they do is easy to take shots at.
But this situation seemed to be an example of two levels of government working co-operatively to find creative ways of helping farmers, and that should be applauded.
Ralph Eichler, Manitoba’s recently reinstalled agriculture minister, has a reputation for being able to work well with the federal government, as he does with producer groups. If his just-resigned boss, Premier Brian Pallister, was marked by combativeness and strained relations with the federal government, Eichler manifests opposite characteristics, often able to work with federal Liberal counterparts.
Here that co-operative approach seems to have paid off.
“This was not done out of my office,” noted Eichler as he announced the aid in the presence of many of Manitoba’s farm leaders.
“This was not done on the back of a napkin. This was a planned program for Manitobans by Manitoba farmers.”
More is to come. The province and federal government are expected to soon announce a cow herd “rebuilding” program that will help farmers recover their lost production over the next few years. The amounts of money might not be huge, but the existence of a program sends the right signal that governments want to have a beef industry, and they want farmers to stick with it.
We’re in the middle of a federal election and are hearing precious little about agriculture. That’s to be expected. Nobody thinks farmers and agriculture will be major issues for an electorate overwhelmingly urban.
But that doesn’t mean governments can’t work competently and quietly to deliver support to farmers, as they appear to have done here.
Farmers have lots of issues they might like dealt with in a federal election. Some of the issues I regularly cover, such as the container shipping crisis, the weakening of rules-based international trade, the volatility of the climate and the lack of urban understanding of agriculture, might be issues that we’d like to see discussed and debated in the election.
That’s not going to happen, but seeing these drought programs come together despite an ongoing election and during the waning days of summer can make us hopeful that farmers can still get some of what they need by working co-operatively with government, as governments can by working co-operatively with each other.
The leaders’ debates won’t contain much mention of farmers and farming. Agricultural issues will have almost zero influence in determining the winner of the election.
But our governments still work, and sometimes they work for us.
For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.