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Manitoba farm groups urge producers to explore alternative uses for crops as drought continues

The Manitoba and federal governments have announced a handful of changes to agriculture insurance and stability programs as farmers continue to grapple with historic drought conditions. Dylan Williamson / Submitted

A coalition of Manitoba farming organizations is urging crop producers to explore alternative uses for their yields amid the devastating drought.

“With drought conditions reported across Manitoba, we recognize the detrimental impacts across the crop and livestock sectors,” said Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) chair Fred Greig in a news release.

“Producers need to know their options so they can make the best business decision for their operation.”

Before making any decisions, the groups say farmers should get in touch with Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) to ask about putting crops to alternative use.

Read more: Extreme drought pushing Manitoba farmers to the brink

“All of this process needs to happen relatively quickly, insomuch as these crops are maturing, dying, and are at their most potential when they have a bit of moisture left in them,” Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, tells Global News.

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“I would suggest in light of where Manitoba’s at, there might be more potential to make more money by selling it as green feed.”

According to the MASC website, producers should have an adjustor appraise the crop prior to it being cut, but if timing doesn’t allow, they should instead leave a 10-foot-wide strip the full length of the field for every 40 acres, so it can be assessed later.

“The appraisal determined by the adjustor will be used to finalize the insurance claim and will be included when calculating your future coverage,” the MASC website reads.

“For example, if the appraisal is 20 bushels per acre and you elect to cut it for feed, MASC will count these 20 bushels per acre as if it were harvested for grain.”

The authors add that the proceeds from alternate use production are not part of the crop claim calculation.

Read more: Could this be Manitoba’s driest year on record?

“So (MASC is) not forcing you into waiting for the crop to be harvested or when it’s matured. Because we all know that the yield will go down as the moisture comes out of the crop and we’re left with a very lightweight product and straw,” Campbell says, adding that in many cases, harvesting the crop as green feed or silage will be the best option.

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In the meantime, Campbell suggests farmers network to try to find buyers for their yields, whether that be through Facebook, Kijiji, the government’s hay listing service, or simply by hopping in their vehicle and driving around.

Perhaps now more than ever, Campbell says farmers need to rely on each other for support.

“Have that conversation: ‘how you doing?’ Stop in with somebody and just see how things are going,” Campbell says.

“I think through COVID and all kinds of issues, we can feel like we’re isolated, and the world is on my shoulders, but there’s a lot of people in similar situations, and if we can just speak about it and help them out and reach out.”

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