Strong relationships between industry and government benefit agri-retailers.
Harvest season was especially challenging in parts of Manitoba last year: heavy rainfall made it difficult or impossible for many producers to get crop off the field, significantly delaying the application of fall fertilizer. With this difficult harvest season in mind, CAAR went to work on behalf of its membership.
In 2011, the province of Manitoba implemented a law banning nutrient application between Nov. 10 and April 10. The intention of the law is to protect water quality from nutrient run-off, which can occur when nutrients are applied to snow-covered or frozen soil.
However, variances to both of those dates are allowed under the right circumstances, like an early spring thaw or a late freeze. Last year, the weather across Manitoba remained unseasonably warm well into November, which led Manitoba Sustainable Development to consider an extension to the deadline.
CAAR worked with an advisory committee of stakeholders, which included Keystone Agricultural Producers and Manitoba Sustainable Development, to secure three extensions to the fall nutrient application deadline. This gave agri-retailers and producers an extra 12 days to complete their fall fertilizer during the exceptionally challenging harvest season.
“When we’re considering an extension to the deadline, we look for three things,” says David Hay, supervisor of Nutrient Management Regulation for Manitoba Sustainable Development. “Is there any snow cover on the field? What is the soil temperature like? And what is the weather forecast like?”
Delaney Ross Burtnack, president and CEO of CAAR, says deadline extensions are not required every year, but appreciates the opportunity to work with the province when one is.
“By November 10 in a good year, fall fertilizer application may be completed,” says Burtnack. “But last year was so challenging and so unusual. There was a strong need across the province to see that deadline extended.”
CAAR reaches out to agronomists stationed throughout Manitoba every year to assess the need for an extension based on the feedback they receive.
“We want to know how their customers are faring,” says Burtnack. “Where are they at with their fertilizer application? Are they starting to worry about the deadline?”
Manitoba Sustainable Development takes the information CAAR compiles about industry demand, and examines the likelihood that favourable weather and soil conditions will hold. If the likelihood is high – as it was in 2016 – then a variance to the fall application deadline is issued.
“One of the reasons CAAR is such a valuable partner for us is because they have members across Manitoba,” says Hay. “It’s important that we have many sets of eyes on the field, so to speak. By taking input from across the province, we’re not making the decision on the deadline based only on what is happening in one specific area. Conditions in southwestern Manitoba might be very different than northwestern Manitoba."
The Power of Communication
Securing the variance is only half the equation – getting the word out to Manitoba’s producers and retailers as quickly as possible is imperative. After each deadline extension is issued, CAAR uses all of the communication channels at their disposal to alert members as quickly as possible.
“Our members need to know what’s going on as it’s happening,” says Burtnack. “If there’s a delay getting the information out by even an hour, that lost hour could be crucial.”
According to Hay, it is very powerful for the government to have this strong level of communication with CAAR and other stakeholders.
“This isn’t something we’re able to make a decision on weeks or months in advance and have that time to communicate the message out. Sometimes the decision is made just days prior, so time is very much of the essence,” he says. “Having CAAR use their social media and website to spread the word is really beneficial.”
While Manitoba is the direct beneficiary of the positive rapport and open communication CAAR has established with Manitoba Sustainable Development, it serves as a good example of the positive influence the association can have at the local level.
“Our work with the Manitoba nutrient variances is Manitoba-specific, but it demonstrates the way we as a national organization can be quite involved in regional issues that are affecting our members,” says Burtnack. “Whatever your region, if you are up against an issue that you could use help and advocacy with, CAAR is here to help you.”
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The Manitoba winter nutrient application ban is now in full effect until April 10, 2017. CAAR will soon be joining the advisory group again to discuss variances to the April 10 deadline.
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