Manitoba farmers confronted with drenched fields after summer of drought

A flooded field. Getty Images

It’s gone from one extreme to the other: Manitoba farmers are now dealing with drenched fields during harvest season, following an extremely dry summer.

“In the last week, we’ve had a significant amount of rain so it’s definitely going to slow our abilities to get on the ground here to get the soybeans off,” Keystone Agriculture Producer Vice President Jill Verwey said.

Verwey, who farms south of Portage la Prairie, said she was fortunate to get her cereals and oilseeds off the fields before the bulk of the rainfall came.

But other farmers weren’t as lucky, and were faced with a challenging harvest season following a challenging growing season, she added.

READ MORE: ‘It’s ugly’: Late summer rains hit Manitoba agricultural producers hard

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“Unfortunately it’s kind of mirroring what happened last year where it was dry all summer, we had the heat, and now going into the fall we’ve got excess rain,” Verwey said, adding that’s she’s optimistic for an ideal October to help producers get this year’s crop in the bin, and start preparing for next season.

“There’s guys that probably won’t be able to do any fall work, just simply because it’s too wet, so it might mean a rushed spring. It all depends, in the next month it could change drastically,” she said.

“We’ve got all of October to go.”

KAP is estimating half of Manitoba crops still need to be harvested, meaning about $2 billion worth of crops are still sitting out on the fields.

The wet harvest conditions aren’t a cause for concern just yet, said Manitoba agriculture minister Ralph Eichler.

“Farmers are resilient, they are used to this and they prepare for it,” Eichler said. “They find ways to get the crop off and we hope that they do.”

The rainfall does have a silver lining for livestock producers who were struggling with feed following the dry conditions, said Verwey.

“Over the summer the feed situation was in dire straits. We’ve gotten a little bit of reprieve in the last little while, (for) the cattle that we do have out on pasture, the grass is coming back,” Verwey said.

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“So that’s helping out a bit, it probably won’t help the lack of feed that’s out there. A lot of guys did reach out and put their straw for sale, so hopefully that will give beef producers a little bit of extra feed for going into the winter months.”

Support for livestock producers

On Monday the province announced additional support for livestock producers impacted by dry conditions this summer, including new loans and deferred payments. The announcement comes after 12 municipalities declared agricultural states of emergency in August due to severe drought.

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

“We recognize that many producers are feeling the effects of our dry summer,” Eichler said.

Cattle producers will now be receiving deferred loan payments for six months, loans for purchasing calves, and increased interim payments from AgriStability.

“We know cash is tight for a number of these producers,” Eichler said. “We want to make sure we have enough tools in the tool box to help them through this tough time.”

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