Federal ag minister tours Manitoba farms, announces drought support measures

Minister Bibeau visits the Duguid ranch in the Interlake (source: Twitter, @mclaudebibeau)

Following a tour of the drought-stricken Interlake region in Manitoba on Thursday (July 22), the federal agriculture minister announced several measures designed to provide support to producers across the country affected by drought.

Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau was accompanied by other government officials, including Conservative MP James Bezan, and representatives from Manitoba Beef Producers, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and Keystone Agricultural Producers, as they visited several farms north of Winnipeg. (See tweets below)

Following the tour, Bibeau held a press conference at The Forks in Winnipeg, where she announced the following:

  • Livestock tax deferrals — The feds are implementing a tax deferral provision for livestock producers in parts of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Producers who have to sell at least 15 per cent of their breeding herd will be eligible to defer a portion of their income to 2022. Find a map of the designated areas here.
  • Federal support for changes to crop insurance in the Prairie provinces — The minister announced federal support for “immediate bilateral adjustments” to the cost-shared AgriInsurance program to make drought-damaged crops available for feed. The minister did not provide specifics, nor a dollar amount, on how this would work within each province. The provinces have already announced measures aimed at making it easier to make feed from drought-affected annual crops.
  • AgriRecovery assessments are underway for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., and Ontario — All five provinces have formally requested AgriRecovery support, which is funded on a 60/40 basis between the federal and provincial governments. Officials are now gathering information to determine what kind of disaster relief should be offered, which could include direct payments for feed, transportation, or water infrastructure.
  • Late AgriStability sign-up — Bibeau said the provinces affected by drought can invoke the late participation provision of AgriStability to allow producers who have not yet enrolled to access the program. Producers can also apply for interim payments to help with cash flow.
  • Federal offer to boost AgriStability — The minister once again repeated the federal offer to raise the AgriStability compensation rate from 70 per cent to 80 per cent and urged the holdout Prairie governments to match it.

Following the minister, Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) president Tyler Fulton spoke passionately and emotionally about the toll the drought is taking on cattle producers.

Manitoba Beef Producers president Tyler Fulton speaking at a press conference with Minister Bibeau on July 22, 2021. (screenshot)

“Can you imagine how it feels to see your years of hard work and love for farming go onto a truck? This is our livelihood. It’s heart-breaking,” he said, referring to a call to the MBP office this week from a family that was selling its entire herd.

Keystone Agricultural Producers director Craig Riese also highlighted the mental impact of the drought, referring producers to resources that are specifically available to help the farm community.

Manitoba-specific drought initiatives

Earlier in the day, Bibeau announced several Manitoba-specific drought initiatives together with provincial Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler.

Further to her announcement that the federal government is working with the provinces on funding changes to crop insurance, the ministers announced that forage producers insured with Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) will receive an additional $44 for every tonne below their coverage to help offset the cost of feed and transportation.

MASC will also apply a quality adjustment factor to appraisals of crops that are being used for feed, rather than harvested for grain. A 60 per cent adjustment factor will be applied on small grain cereal crops, reflecting the expected reduction in quality due to drought. The full yield appraisal will still be used to calculate future crop insurance coverage.

“We recognize that this has been an extremely difficult year for many producers with the lack of precipitation and extreme heat,” said Eichler. “With pastures drying up and minimal sources of feed for livestock, it’s important to give producers the resources they need to secure feed to maintain their herds. All livestock producers play a critical role in our food supply and provincial economy, we’re proud to support them with early release of this benefit.”

Bibeau is slated to make an announcement regarding “nature protection initiatives in the Prairie provinces” on behalf of Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson in Stonewall, Man. on Friday.

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