Sunday, June 12, 2011

Manitoba studies strategy to help flooded farmland, address climate change

Chinta Puxley in the Canadian Press: After four soggy years of flooded pastures and ruined crops, the Manitoba government is looking at how to help frustrated farmers cope with climate change in the province's Interlake region.

The province has quietly issued a request for proposals for a study on how to deal with "excess moisture on agricultural lands" in the area sandwiched between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg, north of the provincial capital. The study is to include a look at drainage policy, crop insurance and best practices by affected farmers.

The government is also looking to the future. It wants a weather forecast "with emphasis on soil moisture extremes, including risk of flooding/excess moisture and drought events." Many frustrated farmers say the proposed study is too little, too late, but the province says it's an important part of coming up with a strategy to help beleaguered producers.

Tony Szumigalski, a policy analyst with the Agriculture Ministry, said climate change appears to be causing greater extremes on the Prairies — from drought in Alberta to chronic flooding in Manitoba.

"The Interlake has been under water for the last three or four years," he said. "It's been very difficult, especially for a lot of the livestock producers. Their hay fields have been flooded out so there have been issues getting enough hay. There have also been issues related to crops as well."

This spring has been particularly bad as the province struggled for weeks to contain the swollen Assiniboine River. That water has now flowed into Lake Manitoba where it has swallowed up hundreds of hectares of farmland along its shores. The lake isn't expected to crest until July and experts say it is likely to stay high for the rest of the year…

Damage from the 2005 flood at the Forks Market in Winnipeg, on the Assiniboine River

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