Farmers in the southwest corner of this province know something about stress.
The ferocious rainstorms of nearly two weeks ago that flooded out the livelihoods of many livestock and crop producers in the region have given more misery to a region that seems to be pummelled with weather-related obstacles.
Not long ago, the region had been parched with drought. Just two short years before the 2011 flood, the Sun reported that the Manitoba government had turned down producers in the southwest corner for special government assistance related to the 2008 drought, and the losses producers incurred because of it.
They needed water, and they needed better government assistance to get through the rough patch. But southwest producers didn’t get any help in the form of tax deferrals or special assistance, as the province said the region didn’t qualify.
What they got instead was far too much water when the spring melt in 2011 flooded the region. Some producers, like Souris-area resident Walter Finley, who spoke to the Sun this week, never got a crop in that year. This year, he only got two-thirds in the ground, and lost some of that to overland flooding. It’s the third time in five years he has had to deal with flooding.
In some extreme cases, other producers have remained unable to plant a crop since that historic flood in 2011, even though last year produced a substantial bumper crop in most of the province.
But the situation is even worse this year. The community of Pierson in the RM of Edward along the U.S.-Canada border, for example, became an island unto itself as the flood waters rose last week. The municipality’s CAO, Lisa Pierce, said the flooding this summer is “10 times worse” than in 2011.
“This area will be uninhabitable if this keeps up,” she said.
At least four of the municipality’s nine bridges have been destroyed, one of which was rebuilt in 2011 to accommodate the area’s increased oil industry traffic.
We are very glad that producers in this flood-drenched region have the Manitoba Farm & Rural Support Services group to rely upon. And it comes as no surprise that the volume of calls has increased since the initial flooding, with more calls expected as producers take stock of the damage in the coming weeks.
We urge all producers who find themselves at their wit’s end to use the service. The men and women on the other end of the line understand the pressures faced by waterlogged rural residents because they are producers too, and they’ve been there.
But once this most recent flooding threat along the Assiniboine River has passed, and the cleanup and assessment begins, we also urge the province to act on pleas for long-term flood mitigation in the region, and to finally deal with the reality of illegal drainage coming out of Saskatchewan.
This continued stress is untenable.