Ag groups awaiting word on drought aid

FORT FRANCES—Letters seeking compensation for the lack of rain this summer have been sent, with the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture and the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association now awaiting a reply.
“We have sent it to the federal and provincial ministers of agriculture [Chuck Strahl and Leona Dombrowsky],” noted RRFA secretary Linda Armstrong.
The letters, as well as a petition signed by local residents, also were forwarded to Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Howard Hampton.
They are requesting the region be deemed a drought disaster area and $150 per animal unit—for all livestock, not just beef cattle—be allocated to farmers.
“Due to low precipitation and hot, windy conditions, the growth of hay, pasture, and field crops throughout the district has suffered extensively,” one letter reads.
“Rain is crucial in the early spring and summer to ensure adequate pasture for livestock and growth for hay and field crops for the winter feed.”
It also is noted farmers were forced to start feeding their livestock the winter hay supply in mid-summer and with that supply below the yearly normal, producers likely will run short of feed this coming winter.
Armstrong explained another problem due to the drought is water shortage.
“The September rain won’t have helped the hay crops and the grain crops—it was too late,” she indicated. “It may have helped a little on the pasture side, but it wasn’t enough to put the water table back.
“My fear is the winter time because, yes, we can haul water—it’s easy to haul when it’s warm—but it’s not so nice to haul water where the cattle would get water,” she added.
“People depended on their ponds and they are dried up.”
This has added additional costs for trucking and hauling water, or having to drill new wells.
The local ag groups collected rainfall data and heat unit figures to further substantiate their claim, citing the 30-year average for rainfall from March through August in Rainy River District was 374.7 mm.
In 2006, the district received only 178.5 mm, which is less than half the average amount over that 30-year period.
“And the heat units are higher this year than ever before from April to September,” Armstrong noted.
Both the RRFA and RRCA is requesting compensation for all district farmers, and are recommending a compensation package be offered to offset unusually high input costs being encountered this season.
Armstrong is hoping for a positive response, but isn’t sure what to expect.
“I don’t think we’re asking a whole lot,” she remarked. “$150 for every animal unit is reasonable . . . now we’re just waiting to hear what the ministers will have to say.”
She said if by chance they receive a negative response, it won’t be good for the area.
“I can see more cattle leaving,” she warned. “I can see farmers cutting down their herd because if they have to buy feed, that cuts into the income of the farmer.
“And if they have to haul water, with the price of gas and the distance, it’s not a viable operation to take on for the winter.
“I can see the farmer having to cut back farther and farther.”
And Armstrong added there really isn’t another route to take, so they would really like to see a positive reply from the ministers.
“That’s our biggest hope—that every farmer can get a little compensation,” she stressed.
(Fort Frances Times)