$448M promised for flood-weary Prairie farmers
Farmers who were unable to plant a crop this year due to flooding are being promised special relief in a $448-million aid package from the federal government and the Prairie provinces.
"Extreme weather and flooding is once again hurting our Prairie farmers," Gerry Ritz, the federal minister of agriculture, said in an announcement Thursday from a farm in southeast Saskatchewan. "Governments have come together once again to develop a relief package that will help producers."
Ritz estimated that 14 million acres of crop land have been affected by flooding in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the last 12 months.
"We know how disasters like this can affect people," Ritz said, noting that some of the damaged land will take years before it is productive again.
The relief package will also be available to livestock producers who lost pasture land to flooding. Details on that aid will vary from province to province.
For farmers, Ritz said the program promises a payment of $30 per eligible acre for crop land that could not be seeded as of June 20, 2011, and crop land that was seeded but then flooded on or before July 31, 2011.
Ritz added that the federal government was also working to finalize an aid package with the province of Quebec to address flooding in the Richelieu area in the spring.
Saskatchewan crops lag behind
According to the most recent crop report, crop development in Saskatchewan is lagging due primarily to a late start of seeding because of flooding.
"While crops are generally still behind normal in development, the warm weather over the past couple of weeks has advanced crops and many producers are expected to harvest in the next couple of weeks," the report, issued Thursday, said.
Some parts of the province were also hit by damaging storms.
Saskatchewan's minister of agriculture noted that about $250 million of the assistance will flow to his province.
Bob Bjornerud said an estimated eight million acres of farmland in Saskatchewan was left unseeded or was flooded out this year. According to Bjornerud, the provincial government will cover about 40 per cent of the cost of the aid package.
Officials told CBC News that in Alberta about 470,000 acres of land were left unseeded or were flooded out.
In Manitoba, 3.9 million acres of land were affected by floods.
Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, Manitoba's main agricultural group, said the program is welcome news.
About 25 per cent of the province's farmland will not produce a crop this year, Chorney said.
"We're pleased to see the federal government step up to assist producers through this difficult growing season. And we're really just looking for more details on how [much] exactly Manitoba's share of this program will be."