Drought data being gathered to help seek relief funding

FORT FRANCES—Many people involved in agriculture throughout Rainy River District have stressed this season has been the driest to date.
But Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Ken Boshcoff and Trish Neilson, president of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture, both know they need the data to prove it if they want to see any drought relief funding from the federal or provincial governments.
“We’re just waiting to get the rain records and the temperature records so we can put that information in our letter,” Neilson noted last week. “The information we’re getting is district-wide. . . .
“We definitely have to put the case toward both governments and we do have to have the hard numbers to do it.”
Boshcoff said having the figures will substantiate the case and, once the data is obtained, he will work together with the RRFA.
“The bottom line is, I’m awaiting information from the [RRFA] to see how they want me to proceed,” he remarked. “But what I’ve done is put both the provincial and federal ministers essentially on notice that I’m going to be coming to them with a request for assistance.
“I’ve been knocking on the door, but I don’t have the package to deliver yet,” added Boshcoff. “They know that I’m on full alert to help.”
Rainfall figures provided by the agricultural research station in Emo and from the Agricorp website for the district do suggest it has been a considerably dry season here.
The ag station data shows the average rainfall there from 2000 to 2005 in the months of May through August is 442.30 mm.
This year, it recorded a rainfall of just 214.50 mm for those same months while last year is shown as the wettest year since 2000 with 557.40 mm.
Besides this year, drier years have seen 316 mm in 2000 and 306.5 mm in 2003 between May and August.
Meanwhile, Agricorp’s data shows Devlin had 225.25 mm of rain from May to July in 2005 and just 138 mm this year in that same time period while Rainy River is recorded as seeing 229.25 mm last year and 119.9 mm this year from May to July.
Neilson noted the RRFA still is trying to figure out how to approach the situation, but know their first step is to get a letter out containing the information they do have and then to ask for some financial assistance.
“We’ve had some rain, but water sources are still going dry. It is by no means a recovery,” she stressed. “I was hoping we’d get the rain because we could sure use it.
“But I thought if we got rain, people would just forget about it—but they haven’t. We’re feeling the affects now into the fall because the water levels have not recovered at all.”
Neilson said some pastures are coming back with the little rain seen lately in the district, but most farmers still missed the middle of the season.
“The water is a real concern—it’s kind of scary,” she remarked. “Creeks that used to be there aren’t anymore.”
She noted there is a federal program called the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS), which aims to help farmers “protect their operations from large and small income declines.”
Neilson said it is worthwhile for people to realize the CAIS program is out there, but she is not satisfied it will be effective in the drought situation facing the district.
“It is not a program that is well-received by the farmers to begin with,” she explained. “But it’s there and people would probably be [remiss] if they didn’t apply under that.”
Boshcoff also said he is working on some individual cases with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for importing relief hay across the border.
“Basically the people of the district should know that it’s some of the things the federal MP gets involved with,” he stressed. “And we’ve been burning up the phone lines with some of these things.”
And Neilson added she’s going to keep working to get financial assistance for ag producers in the district.
“Everyone has seemed to have problems with the drought,” she declared. “We’ve got to do what we can to lessen the impact.”
(Fort Frances Times)

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