A dairy farmer in southwestern Manitoba believes flooded-out farmers are the architects of their own demise.
Fred Neil, who owns a dairy farm northeast of Hartney near the Souris River, said the relentless push to bring traditional low-lying land into production has increased the incidence of flooding.
“It’s worse since 2011 because grain farmers are widening and deepening their ditches and this water is coming at us faster,” he said.
The last time his land flooded, Neil was forced to evacuate approximately 250 dairy cows. Officials were concerned a levee protecting his barn could be breached, leaving the cows defenceless to the water and drowning.
The process of moving the livestock and milking them off-site caused stress on the animals, he said.
Neil believes his mortality rate has increased while his production has decreased as a result of the evacuation.
Since the 2011 flood, Neil has strengthened a dike that protects his property.
He won’t move his cows this time — no matter what happens.
“Hell can freeze over before I move cows out this year,” Neil said. “If they want a barn full of dead cows, they should just keep going the way they are.”
Neil estimates the flood of 2011 cost him more than $1.5 million.
Last week, Ducks Unlimited’s Charles Deschamps said data collected by the wildlife conservation organization points to 28 acres of wetlands being removed per day in Saskatchewan.
Much of that land is in watersheds that feed rivers that flow directly into Manitoba.
“They’ve told us there is more water coming and to expect the worst in a week,” Neil said, adding that he has already lost 50 per cent of his corn field.
He also believes there is a bias from politicians in favour of grain farmers.
“Since 2011, I’ve had my eyes opened,” Neil said. “It’s become a two-class country —whining grain farmers will have two ministers on their doorstep now.
“Here they’ve gone and washed the railway line out so they can’t move the grain and they’ll get a bloody handout.”
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed