REGINA – Farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan say they are bearing the brunt of Prairie flooding, with some at risk of losing both their income and their homes.
Doug Chorney, head of Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba, said farmers were already struggling before the recent torrential rain.
A soggy spring prevented many farmers from getting crops in the ground before the flooding. It’s estimated some 400,000 hectares went unseeded.
Now, Chorney said some people could lose this year’s income from lost crops and part of their homes as well.
“Personal property and farmyards are in extreme hazard,” he said Thursday. “It’s gone from being a farm business problem to being a complete potential attack on rural communities.”
Torrential rain and flash floods prompted 96 municipalities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to declare a state of emergency. About 300 people in Saskatchewan and 500 people in Manitoba have been evacuated due to overland flooding.
There are flood warnings for 28 Manitoba rivers and streams. Flood watches are in place for Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. About 78 provincial roads, hundreds of municipal roads and dozens of bridges are closed.
“On a farm, when you get a disaster like this, you lose your home, you lose your potential for income for at least a year and you may have to dig into your savings to finance recovery,” he said.
“It’s significant, very significant. It’s going to be felt for many years in rural communities.”
FULL COVERAGE: Prairie farmers, communities tackle flooding
Norm Hall, president of Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said farmers in the flood zone in the province were hit hard, but it is too soon to assess how badly.
“It got really ugly in a hurry,” he said. “It’s the gamut of farms and everybody’s being hit.”
Farmers are not only concerned about their personal property but the floodwater has damaged roads, as well as grain storage bins, Hall said. At least 40,000 hectares of crops have been affected so far, he said.
“But it could easily go above that as well,” Hall said.
Adding to the stress, Chorney said Manitoba is activating the Portage diversion which funnels water from the Assiniboine River into Lake Manitoba. That has the potential to flood even more farmland and weaken dikes that protect farms, he said.
The flooding situation appears to be stabilizing in parts of Manitoba.
The City of Brandon, which was hit by flooding over the weekend, is preparing for the floodwater to crest next week.
While dozens of basements have taken on water, the city’s emergency co-ordinator said no one has been evacuated.
Brian Kayes said the floodwater is still just under three metres from the top of the city’s dikes. It’s expected to come within half-a-metre when it crests.
“The crest when it arrives is likely to stay for a couple of days and then begin to recede rather quickly as well,” he said.
© 2014 The Canadian Press