Seeding delayed for flooded prairie farmers

Spring seeding is delayed across the southern prairies due to extensive flooding.
A flooded field near Melita, Man. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan government says not a single farmer has put a crop in the ground and things aren't looking much better on farms elsewhere across the waterlogged prairies.

Saskatchewan Agriculture spokesman Grant McLean said spring seeding is delayed across the province due to flooding, with the southwest area of the province particularly soggy. But McLean said it is still early and there remains plenty of opportunity for a strong 2011 crop.

"We're still looking at May as our dominant seeding month so in many cases we're still optimistic," he said. "We will have an opportunity to take advantage of this moisture and get some pretty good crops once we get mother nature co-operating and getting us into the field."

Farmers in southwestern Saskatchewan are usually first in the field. But this year they could be the last to seed, if at all.

McLean said with favourable weather, some farmers in less flood-prone areas may be able to start working their fields in about 10 days.

Alfred Sattler, who has been farming near Regina since the 1940s, said he's never seen a spring as wet as this spring.

Tending his cattle for now, he's still optimistic things can turn around crop-wise.

"You just hope and pray that the weather changes. That it gets better. Sooner or later it has to get better," he said.

But if conditions don't improve soon then Sattler, 70, said he may not put any seed in the ground for the first time in his life.

"It bothers me a little bit. But what can you do? What can you do about it? Pray and hope things change in the next few days."

In Manitoba, Gene Nerbas who farms a few kilometres south of the Shellmouth Dam just north of Russell, Man., said creeks have turned to rivers and overland flooding has devasated hundreds of thousands of acres.

"This is water coming from Saskatchewan," said Nerbas, adding he likely won't plant a crop in for the second year running.

Many parts of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan are flooded. (CBC)
Elsewhere in Manitoba — in the southwest, the Red River Valley and Interlake regions — fields are completely inundated and it will take weeks of good weather to dry things out. And even when fields are dry enough to work, many farmers will have to spend time clearing debris from their fields prior to seeding.

On Sunday, meantime, residents of the Roseau River First Nation south of Winnipeg continued to leave that community. Emergency Measures officials were trying to determine where the evacuees might go, with temporary shelter in Winnipeg already filling up with people from another flooded community north of the capital, Peguis First Nation.

It is expected all 850 residents of Roseau River will join almost 1,000 others who have left their homes because safe road access in and out of their homes has been flooded. Manitoba has moved two of its icebreaking Amphibex machines to the western edge of the province to remove ice jams on the Saskatchewan River and the Carrot River, which have created high water conditions near The Pas.

There are currently 30 states of local emergency declared by municipalities in Manitoba and 77 provincial roads have been affected by floodwaters, 52 of which are closed. Approximately 650 municipal roads are closed.