Saskatchewan government announces aid for livestock producers struggling with drought

Amid calls from multiple agricultural industries for drought aid, the Saskatchewan government has announced new measures for livestock producers struggling to feed their animals.

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“Everything I heard from the livestock sector was that there was just no feed out there,” Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit said Wednesday.

“We felt today was an important step in trying to find a way for the livestock sector to try and find feed. I think this is a big step in the right direction.”

Read more: ‘Irreparable crop damage’ without significant rainfall: Saskatchewan Agriculture

A Canadian Ministry of Agriculture map shows drought conditions in Saskatchewan as of June 30, 2021. The red colour seen near Swift Current and the US border indicates “extreme drought”. Government of Canada

Effective immediately, the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) is doubling the Low Yield Appraisal threshold values for customers who salvage their cereal or pulse crops as feed.

For example, insured producers looking to utilize barley for livestock feed can now do so if their yield is 14 bushels per acre or less. The previous threshold was seven bushels.

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Interested producers are asked to contact the SCIC office before grazing, baling any damaged crops.

“I think there’s an opportunity here for grain farmers and the livestock sector to work together,” Marit said.

Additionally, the province announced a temporary funding cap increase for the SCIC’s Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP) to offset costs related to dugouts, pipelines and wells.

For the period of April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2021, the maximum rebate for livestock producers will increase from $50,000 to $150,000. The initial $50,000 is based on a 50-50 cost share with producers. The government will cover 70 per cent of the remaining $100,000.

When asked how much the measures will cost the province, Marit said a dollar figure is tough to nail down without knowing uptake, but estimated the cost of the expanded salvage benefit “could vary anywhere from $25 million to over $100 million.”

Both programs are cost-shared with the federal government.

Read more: Heat, dry conditions impacting crops in Saskatchewan

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The province also requested the federal government designate the entire province as eligible through the Livestock Tax Deferral program.

According to the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-food, regions qualify for the deferral when forage yields are less than 50 per cent of the long-term average, and “the area affected is large enough to have an impact on the industry.”

In a statement, a ministry spokesperson said “Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials work closely with provincial forage experts across Canada to evaluate the impacts of droughts and to ensure that designations under the Livestock Tax Deferral provision accurately reflect local growing conditions. We anticipate that an initial list of regions meeting the criteria for the Livestock Tax Deferral will be made available soon.”

The ministry also provided the following statement from Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau:

“We are working closely with our provincial partners to monitor and respond to the evolving drought situation in the West. We are looking closely at the submissions made by stakeholders.

“Canadian farmers have access to a range of federal-provincial Business Risk Management programs, to help them deal with the financial repercussions of these challenges.

“Our Government recently led efforts among provinces to improve the income stabilization BRM program, AgriStability, so that it pays out more to farmers who need it the most. We continue urge Prairie governments to match the federal offer to raise the AgriStability compensation rate to 80%, which would benefit distressed farmers now more than ever. This change would mean an added $75 million nationally into the pockets of farmers who need it the most every year.

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“We are working to build a sustainable future for the agriculture sector in Canada, since we know extreme weather will continue to challenge farmers, who are on the front lines of climate change. That includes over half a billion dollars into new federal programs to directly support the climate resiliency of farmers.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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