A wet, snowy harvest season and ongoing trade disputes driving down commodity prices have prompted the Rural Municipality (RM) of Lipton, about an hour northeast of Regina, to declare a local agricultural disaster area in order to draw attention to issues in agriculture.
Reeve Corey Senft farms in the area and anticipates financial hardship in an RM where most of the tax revenue is based in agriculture.
“I think about 30 to 40 per cent of the crop is still out. It won’t get harvested this fall anymore,” Senft said.
“What was taken off is in a damp, tough state and has to be dried, and the costs keep on increasing with drying.”
The RM sent letters to Premier Scott Moe, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili, the provincial and federal agriculture ministers and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, calling for increased supports for producers.
Meili called on the province to advocate for the AgriStability program to bring its threshold to 85 per cent. The program currently provides compensation for producers whose historic income falls below 70 per cent of its five-year-average due to uninsurable events, like a flood.
In response, Agriculture Minister David Marit said crop insurance is available to cover losses attributed to rain and snow during harvest.
“There’s things that fall under the program and things that don’t,” Marit said.
“There’s a bigger list of things that don’t, and when you have crop left out in the field, that’s an insurable loss.”
Senft, however, took issue with that statement.
“I know the minister stated that they’ve increased crop insurance significantly, and we appreciate that. But with the cost of farming now, many farmers will tell you now it’s just not going to cover it,” Senft said.
Marit added that AgriStability is a federal program, and Saskatchewan can’t modify it alone. He said that he would have to get consensus from his provincial peers on opening up the program before bringing modification ideas forward.
“If you’re going to change the program, obviously there’s going to be a cost to it, and how does that all play out?” Marit said.
The minister said there should be some changes, but declined to get into specifics.
Meili wondered how Marit planned to achieve consensus on changing ArgiStability without first raising the issue.
“I think he should take a public position and ask us what would work for farmers. He should be listening to farmers; he knows we would be getting a better deal for Saskatchewan farmers if that was the program,” Meili said.
While speaking with reporters, Senft did acknowledge he is a member of one of Saskatchewan’s two main political parties, but declined to say which one.
Financial disclosure documents show a Corey Senft has previously donated to the Saskatchewan NDP and Trent Wotherspoon’s NDP leadership campaign.