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Manitoba farmers prepare for uncertainty heading into the harvest season

Manitoba farmers are contending with the summer heat, as hotter, drier weather is forcing many to prepare for a possible crisis this season.

The concern comes in the midst of a number of factors that have already impacted the livelihood of Canadian farmers: supply chain issues as a result of machinery backlog from the B.C. port strike, the war in Ukraine causing a fluctuation in commodity prices, and high costs for things like feed and fertilizer.

Charles Fossay, a farmer and director with the Keystone Agricultural Producers, said he’s hopeful for the crop yield this year. But his harvest season hopes, he said, depend on the weather.

“We’ve got another three weeks where any hot, dry weather could impact the yields of the crops severely,” said Fossay. “We’re seeing major moves both in the value of the crops that we grow and the cost of inputs needed to grow the crops.”

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Fossay owns a farm near Starbuck, Man. But unlike him, other farmers are wary of the coming harvest.

Tyler Fulton, a beef farmer and former president of the Manitoba Beef Producers, said there are pockets of droughts that echo the situation felt in 2021. Situated near the Saskatchewan border, he said he’s seen about only an inch of rain in seven weeks. With his yield in need of moisture, he said the ongoing dry conditions mean solutions need to be put in place — and soon.

“We think the Canadian government needs to do better,” said Fulton. “As a beef producer, we’re really heavily reliant on the export markets…. All of these things have negative impacts that could really threaten the prices that we receive for our product.”

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While ongoing factors persist, there’s an added worry for pork and beef farmers about the United Kingdom being granted access to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s a concern shared by Fulton, who feels that Canadian producers could be blocked from the U.K. market, as local inspection standards aren’t shared there.

The federal government, said Fulton, needs to ensure the United Kingdom provides reciprocal access to beef from Canada and vice versa.

“It’s front and centre in my mind right now,” said Fulton.

A spokesperson for International Trade Minister Mary Ng said earlier this week that Canada and Britain are separately negotiating a bilateral trade deal and “continue to push for Canadian agricultural interests, including commercially meaningful access for pork and beef.”

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As for the pork industry, Manitoba Pork general manager Cam Dahl said the current market volatility is troubling. With the recent port strike in British Columbia, Dahl said he’s concerned about the fate of an annual export of pork worth approximately $730 million.

But even amid the challenges, he remains optimistic about the potential for growth in the industry. It’s a sector, he said, that creates jobs. With more than 20,000 workers, he said it’s their jobs that the industry can’t put at risk.

According to Dahl, for farmers, recovery is dependent on the involvement of all levels of government. He alluded to a plan that would prioritize putting perishable goods into the market.

“Despite that list of potential threats, the pork industry of Manitoba is really an example of that advantage for Manitoba. There (are) still significant opportunities for growth,” said Dahl.

— with files from Global’s Katherine Dornian.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba’s first crop report for 2023'

Manitoba’s first crop report for 2023

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