Opposition Leader Ryan MeiliMeili said he made a joint call with the other NDP leaders of the Prairies in April to back the fix proposed by the federal government, before the deadline at the end of this month for farmers and producers to enrol in the program.
The Saskatchewan government told Global News it has advocated for the province’s agricultural sector in federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) discussions.
“This is demonstrated by the recent provincial budget, which included additional funding to remove the AgriStability reference margin limit. Producers made it clear that removing the reference margin limit was a top priority, and will help the AgriStability program function as intended,” read a provincial government statement.
“The cost of enhancements to the compensation rate in addition to removal of the reference margin limit would be considerable for Saskatchewan, given the large size of our agriculture industry.”
The NDP said while a partial agreement with the federal government was reached in March to remove the reference margin limit, the Saskatchewan government has refused to invest the money necessary to change the compensation rate from 70 to 80 per cent.
“We had a $1 billion rainfall that has temporarily saved producers in much of Saskatchewan from severe drought conditions, but every producer knows that you’re only one disaster away from a failed crop year,” NDP agriculture critic Trent Wotherspoon said in a press release on Tuesday.
“Producers have until June 30 to enrol in AgriStability and are united in calling for this needed change. Instead of blocking this fix as the Sask. Party have been, producers deserve their government to stand up for them.”
The provincial government added the Canadian government was not open to discussing other funding models.
“At the March 25th meeting of FPT Ministers of Agriculture, a proposal was put forward by the Prairie provinces for the federal government to provide their 60 per cent share of the cost to increase the compensation rate while allowing the provinces flexibility in the level of funding they can provide,” the government said.
“A vote was held on this proposal in which a majority of the provinces participating, representing the vast majority of Canada’s agricultural production, voted in favour. We were disappointed to see that the federal minister declined.
“We will continue to stand up for Saskatchewan producers to advance the interests of Saskatchewan agriculture.”
According to Cam Goff, who farms near Hanley, Sask., AgriStability is a “vital lifeline” and he and others have faced increased risk and increased costs since the program was cut in 2013.