Andy Walker

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While some much needed rainfall fell on the potato crop over the first two weeks in July, the central part of the province especially was in need of some more moisture as the heart of the summer approaches.

This has been a common theme across much of the country as the 2020 growing season started off hot and dry. Conditions were almost picture perfect for planting everywhere and growers finished early essentially everywhere but Manitoba, which seems to be looking at another tough year from Mother Nature.

Despite the lack of rainfall, the crop is looking good. The hot June has produced a significant risk of late blight and increased insect activity. Hopefully, the province will receive that elusive combination of rainfall and sunshine over the next few weeks that will both ensure steady growth of the crop while keeping the pest numbers low.

There also looks to be a bit of a rebound in processing sales as restaurants start to open around the world. Acreage was cut significantly in virtually every major growing area in North America and Europe this spring, as plants cut back on volumes of last year's crop they were accepting.

The province, Potato Board and Cavendish Farms struck a deal that would provide up to $4.7 million to assist the processor with the cost of trucking and storing over 100 million pounds of potatoes until the market improved.

During debate on her budget estimates, Finance Minister Darlene Compton told Green Party MLA Michele Beaton Cavendish may not need all of that money due to the market rebound. If that turns out to be the case, it will be good news not only for the processing growers who received payment for last year's crop but a saving for taxpayers at a time of record spending due to COVID-19 programs.

On another front, it is time for the Senate to appoint a committee on agriculture again. Island Senator Diane Griffin chaired the committee in the last Parliament. Even in the unelected Senate, all committees are dissolved when an election is called.

The last time Griffin and her committee held a meeting was June 13, 2019-- well over 13 months ago. The committee did some good work over the tenure of the last Parliament, examining such topics as enhancing value added food production, the impacts of climate change and the rising price of farmland.

After last fall's election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took his time recalling Parliament, only having a short session before Christmas. In fairness, the committee would likely have been named in the spring except for the arrival of COVID-19 .

Its House of Commons counterpart has been back to work for several months and it is time to jumpstart the Senate committee as well. The technology exists to hold virtual meetings --both committees have been hearing from witnesses remotely longer before COVID-19 struck.

Senate committees can offer a less partisan approach, especially now when the majority are not affiliated with a political party. However, if the longer they go without meeting, the more people will wonder about the need for such a committee in the future place.

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