Posted on 05/05/2015, 8:30 am, by mySteinbach

Keystone Agricultural Producers is urging the Manitoba government to consult with farmers and rural municipalities when deciding how to spend an increase in infrastructure money announced in the recent budget.

“Finance Minister Dewar focused on funding to improve highways 59 and 75 in his speech yesterday, and while farmers do use these highways, there are so many other roads and bridges with high traffic volumes that are in urgent need of improvements,”  said KAP president Dan Mazier.

“KAP would like to ensure that decisions for municipal road and bridge improvements are done in conjunction with rural municipalities, in areas where there is the most need. Farmers would like to see roads, highways, and bridges improved in high-traffic areas where they often haul grain or move livestock. Access to livestock auctions, feed mills, crushing plants, and elevators is a critical component of a successful farm operation.”

A concern for KAP stemming from yesterday’s budget rollout is the continuation of a year-over-year decline in the core funding to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD).

“There has been a reduction of almost $10 million in the last four years,” Mazier said. “I notice, in particular, there is a large cut in the areas of policy and strategic innovation – and these are what will guide agriculture into the future.”

“We are looking forward to discussions with the department to see what the plans are for ensuring we have the adequate tools to keep agriculture in Manitoba competitive in the global marketplace now and in the years to come.”

Mazier said another annual issue for KAP is the Farmland School Tax Rebate, a program that was created to address the inequity of farmers paying education taxes on their farmland.

“The rebate was at 80 per cent, and the province had promised during the last election that it would go to 100 per cent. Instead, it was held at 80 per cent, and new rules to the program several years ago saw farmers paying more education tax.”

“We were looking for good news this year that the recent cuts would be addressed and the rebate would be increased, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”

On the positive side, Mazier said KAP was pleased with the $3 million announcement for the Grain Innovation Hub that will encourage innovation in Manitoba’s grain sector, and the $1 million for the Biomass Energy Support Program that will help biomass users and processors developing high-quality, renewable biomass products.

“Additionally, we are optimistic about the Youth Job Strategy, and are eager to meet with MAFRD Minister Ron Kostyshyn to discuss whether agriculture will qualify so it can use this tool to attract new entrants to the industry.”