Ritz gives farmers relief

Aug. 8, 2011 — The World Spectator

People say that the best gifts come in small packages, but for Prairie farmers, it’s just the opposite. A huge support package from the federal government was announced last Thursday—a package worth $448 million, and one that will go directly toward flood relief for farmers.

“While farmers know how to deal with difficult weather, the extreme flooding of crop land this year, and year after year, can be devastating,” said federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz at a farm outside McTaggart, Saskatchewan.

“It’s safe to say that it has been a remarkably tough year for farmers in the Western provinces that have been affected. Extreme weather and flooding is once again hampering farm production on the Prairies and preventing some farmers from producing the high quality foods that we have all come to expect.”

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Officials estimate that 13 to 14 million acres of crop was unseeded this year on the Prairies, including eight million acres in Saskatchewan, leaving many farmers with damaged land and minimal crops. So the federal government has stepped in to help producers manage the financial burden the flooding caused.

“I’m proud to announce with the government of Canada in partnership with our provincial colleges in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, we will deliver an assistance package worth some $448 million to producers in the affected areas,” said Ritz. “Under this initiative, crop producers will receive $30 per unseeded acre to assist with the extraordinary costs of rehabilitating their crop land.”

This AgriRecovery initiative will offer relief to the three prairie provinces, with about $250 million being directed towards Saskatchewan farmers. The program will provide producers with $30 per eligible acre of land too wet to seed as of June 20, or seeded land that was ruined by flooding before July 31.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud highlights that the newly announced support is in addition to the unseeded acreage benefit of $70 per acre that crop insurance coverage customers are already receiving, so when used in conjunction, farmers will be receiving $100 for every unseeded acre.

And grain farmers aren’t the only ones getting assistance from the government.

“We recognize that it’s not only grain producers who were affected by this year’s wet conditions,” says Bjornerud. “Livestock producers around the province have lost pasture land due to flooding and continue to cope with rain that is affecting their haying operations. To address this, the provincial government is continuing our Saskatchewan Feed and Forage program—the province of Saskatchewan is putting in our 40 per cent share to help livestock producers purchase additional winter feed if they have been affected by excess moisture.”

This part of the program results in a payment of $12 per ton of excess feed purchased by feedlot owners whose feed was too damaged to be used. Bjornerud hopes to continue talks with the federal government to increase this number to $30. He also hopes that this program, which is continuing from last year, will help producers to re-seed hay, forage, and pasture land that has been damaged by excess moisture.

The team of agriculture ministers additionally announced a new program to offer support to intensive livestock operations such as feedlots that were affected by the excess moisture.

“Feedlots will now be eligible for up to 75 per cent rebate up to $250,000 on the cost of repairing or replacing pens and manure storage systems that have been damaged by excess moisture,” says Bjornerud.

The government initiatives were stemmed after both Ritz and Bjornerud were subject to the reality that Prairie farmers faced this spring, but also are also a symbol that the government recognizes the importance of a healthy agricultural industry in the country.

“Agriculture has been a driving force in helping to steer this country through tough economic times,” says Ritz. “It’s an industry that gives a lot to Canada, and one that deserves our respect and our support. Canadians told us that while they tighten their own belts, they want to see their government do the same, and of course we agree. Given the disaster and the long-term impact it will have on future agricultural production, it’s important to help producers deal with the extraordinary cost of disasters like this.”

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