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Few surprises for farmers in Man. budget

A pledge to fund sustainable farming practices is among little new for farmers in Manitoba’s provincial budget Wednesday.

Finance Minister Greg Selinger referred to “a multi-year funding plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by supporting sustainable farm practices, trucking technologies, active transport initiatives and green heating technologies,” but a dollar figure and specifics weren’t yet available Wednesday afternoon.

Generally, the 2008 budget calls for $12.2 billion in spending from $12.3 billion in revenue, with $2.6 billion in revenue from income taxes, $3.9 billion from federal transfer payments and $3.3 billion from “other” taxes.

Among the pledges specifically for farmers and rural residents are a previously planned increase in the farmland school tax rebate to 70 per cent, saving farmers over $30 million in school taxes paid on farmland. A riparian tax credit and community enterprise development tax credit are also extended.

Other “green” initiatives include another $5.3 million for conservation districts, $150 million for rural and northern water and wastewater projects, and more funding for monitoring and inspection of septic fields in the “capital region” north of Winnipeg and in cottage country.

The NDP government’s budget also marks $8.8 million more for the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp., the provincial crop insurance agency, to reflect increasing crop values.

Other measures for farmers covered in Wednesday’s budget include a previously announced $14.7 million federal/provincial fund for payments to cattle producers and a $60 million loan program, also previously announced, for hog producers. Inspection services and veterinarian training and services are also to see some investment, the province said.

The provincial Liberals zapped the budget for “failure to fund eco-friendly farming,” among other promises the party said had been broken by the NDP.

Tory leader Hugh McFadyen said the NDP touted Wednesday’s budget as a green budget “but the only thing green about it is the recycling of old announcements. There’s no focus or concrete commitment to issues that matter to Manitobans like safety, health care reform, debt repayment and tax relief.”

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