Recent History – 2001
Sept. 14, 2001
By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Peace grain growers will receive $5.25 million from the federal government to help cover losses incurred by low commodity prices during the 2000 growing season.
The money is part of a $24.3 million package for farmers in B.C. out of a total of about $500 million for farmers nation-wide.
B.C. Agriculture Minister John van Dongen said during a teleconference Thursday that he expects to sign the agreement that will deliver the money to the province by Monday at the latest.
B.C. Grain Producers Association (BCGPA) president Jim Smolik said the injection is well above the $1.45 million set aside for grain producers in 1999.
Normally, the province must contribute a 40 per cent share to receive a 60 per cent contribution from Ottawa. But this time B.C. was able to convince the feds that spending for such items as loan guarantees to greenhouses because of the natural gas rates constituted a payment into the safety net program.
“One can argue that a lot of that money never really will be spent, but at least they did trigger the $24.3 million, so we’re pleased with that, Smolik said.
The money will once again be delivered by the BCGPA but the program will have a new name — the Canada-British Columbia Assistance Program. The payments will be made on an acreage basis this year, and it will be an application-driven process.
Smolik said the BCGPA should send to Ottawa either today or tomorrow the arrangement with the province for delivering the money.
Best-case scenario, the money was supposed to be in B.C.’s hands by the first week of September. It’s now the second week, but Smolik said it looks like it should be available soon.
Although the money is welcome, applying for the cash will be one more thing farmers will have to pursue during the busiest time of the season.
Once we’ve sent the applications out, we have to give a long enough time frame so the producers have the time to apply for the funds,” Smolik said.
Meanwhile, the quality of this year’s grain harvest is shaky thanks to the unusual weather pattern experienced these past few months.
“For example, I’m swathing some wheat that’s been in the ground for close to 140 days now, and it’s too green to be swathing in a sense, but the calendar says it’s time for it to go down,” Smolik said via cell phone from his combine.
“Under a normal year, this should have been in the bin by now and it’s not even ready to be swathed. We’ve just had that cold, wet year that has really kept things from ripening.”
According to the latest Agricore crop report, released Wednesday, four per cent of the spring wheat has been harvested and about 20 per cent of the barley has been combined in the Peace. As well, six per cent of the canola and two-thirds of the pea crops have been harvested.
Farmers also suffered extensive crop damage due to heavy rain and a hail storm. Van Dongen noted that only about 30 per cent of farmers in the Peace have crop insurance. But Smolik said that with prices as low as they are, buying crop insurance is pointless for the amount that farmers would receive on their claims.