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12 Manitoba rural municipalities declare state of agriculture emergency due to severe drought

12 Manitoba RMs declared a state of agricultural emergency Thursday.
12 Manitoba RMs declared a state of agricultural emergency Thursday. Getty Images

Several Manitoba rural municipalities declared a state of agricultural emergency Thursday, thanks to a severe drought in central Manitoba.

Twelve RMs, mostly in the Interlake and Parklands regions, declared the emergency after dry weather has left producers unable to produce enough hay to feed their cattle, among other problems.

The RMs include Alonsa, Armstrong, Bifrost-Riverton, Coldwell, Ethelbert, Fisher, Grahamdale, Lakeshore, McCreary, Ste. Rose, West Interlake and Woodlands.

READ MORE: Manitoba ag groups offering solutions to hay, straw shortage

“The lack of volume and frequency of precipitation in 2019 has caused considerable damage to the agriculture industry within the Interlake and Parkland regions,” reads a statement from the RMs.

“Due to the extremely dry conditions, grain, hay and straw producers have faced severely reduced crop yields and pastures have also been adversely affected throughout the growing season. These factors have led to diminished feed resources.

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“The severity of the feed shortage has been compounded by a depleted inventory of carryover feed in 2018 due to dry conditions last summer and the latest long, cold winter.”

The RMs said farmers are becoming increasingly desperate as they have to pay to transport hay for their livestock or drill additional wells for water. Some farmers are considering selling their livestock.

The RMs are asking the province to “prioritize a meeting with local producers” to talk about current subsidy programs, which they say are inadequate.

Dianne Riding feeds her cattle Thursday afternoon.
Dianne Riding feeds her cattle Thursday afternoon. Diana Foxall/Global News

Both Manitoba Beef Producers and Keystone Agricultural Producers warned earlier this month that the hot and dry weather has led to far lower yields on feed this year.

They urged local farmers with any extra hay to consider selling it to struggling producers.

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Dianne Riding, VP of the Manitoba Beef Producers, said she likely won’t have enough feed for her 130 cows and is considering downsizing.

“We are on the second year of not having enough moisture,” she said. “Last year I had 500 bales of hay that we made, and this year I only have 250.”

In a normal year, her farm produces about 1,800 bales of hay, she added.

“My hay reserve disappeared last year and I know a lot of my friends and neighbors, their reserve has also disappeared.”

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Downsizing is difficult for most producers, Riding said.

“If you’re going to run cattle you absolutely enjoy cattle. You enjoy working with them … I probably have the best job in the world. But it’s really hard that Mother Nature might put us out of business.”

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