WINNIPEG, MB – The National Farmers Union (NFU) in Manitoba is deeply concerned about drastic cuts to public agriculture services in Manitoba announced on January 6, 2021. The Manitoba Government will close 21 rural offices occupied by Manitoba Agriculture Services Corporation and Rural Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, leaving only 10 rural offices standing.
“These sweeping changes raise several concerns for farmers,” said Ian Robson, NFU Manitoba Regional Coordinator. “If we lose access to the knowledge base that all these public access locations provide then we lose a valuable source of advice, resources and independent information.”
“A one stop shop for all Manitoba Ag services sounds like a nice idea in theory, but there are services that simply need a local or hands on perspective,” Robson added. “The NFU is concerned that the provincial government is not recognizing their value to farmers.”
The government claims that no jobs will be lost and that it will continue to let staff work from home as they have done since the start of the COVID19 crisis. However the NFU has been concerned for several years about the jobs in Manitoba Agriculture departments that are vacant, have been “phased out” or eliminated, and are concerned this office consolidation will accelerate the trend.
“At this point we have no idea if the Manitoba government is willing to bring back or bring in specialist service roles that are needed,” said Dean Harder of Lowe Farm. “The COVID-19 crisis has increased public interest in local food and there is a real opportunity here for producers to respond to surging consumer demand for their products. These producers need regionally appropriate support and expertise in order to realize this potential.”
“As we move into reducing our impact on the climate, we know we will need more public extension services that can help farmers make better choices that are not influenced by companies seeking to sell more product. The large reduction in rural service centres is a step in the wrong direction,” said Harder.
“The NFU in Manitoba is ready and willing to be at the table to provide input on how to provide valuable public agricultural services to benefit the strength and diversity of the province’s farms,” said Robson. “Working hand in hand with public agricultural services, we can strengthen and build Manitoba’s farm sector for the future.”
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National Farmers Union – Manitoba (Region 5)
Ian Robson, Region 5 Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org (204) 858-2479
Anastasia Fyk, Region 5 Director email@example.com (431) 335-5848
Dean Harder, Member Lead firstname.lastname@example.org (204) 797-6388