$119M pledged by Saskatchewan government to help drought-affected livestock producers

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said livestock producers are struggling as he announced $119 million in direct support under the AgriRecovery program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Saskatchewan government is pledging millions of dollars for drought-affected cattle producers and is asking the federal government for more support.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said livestock producers are struggling as he announced $119 million in direct support under the AgriRecovery program.

It will provide financial relief to producers for extra-ordinary costs incurred during the drought.

“We are acting swiftly to support Saskatchewan producers in retaining their breeding herd,” Marit said.

Read more: Local state of emergency declared in RM of Excelsior due to drought

Many pastures and crops across Saskatchewan have been severely affected by the drought and many dugouts are dry or have poor water quality.

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Last week, Saskatchewan Agriculture said hay and pasture land topsoil moisture was rated 73 per cent very short, with cropland topsoil moisture rated 66 per cent very short.

Marit said the program will provide immediate relief to producers.

“(It will) help producers make decisions that are best for their operations,” he said.

“The livestock sector is a vital part of our agriculture industry, and a significant contributor to our provincial economy.”

The support is being welcomed by the industry.

Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA) chair Arnold Balicki said challenges from the drought are many and varied.

“Water availability, water quality, feed for the short term and feed for winter among many others,” he said.

“That’s why we requested a per head payment that will allow producers to manage their specific challenges.”

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association president Kelcy Elford welcomes the news.

“This support will help producers navigate these unprecedented times and help level the playing field with other jurisdictions (provinces/states) that we are competing with for feed sources,” Elford said.

Read more: Drought providing challenging times for cattle ranchers in Saskatchewan

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The amount payable to producers is dependent on whether the federal government offers any support, agriculture officials said.

The Saskatchewan government said it has requested the feds contribute an additional $178 million to the AgriRecovery program to support producers.

The program is part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership agreement, with funding shared on a 60-40 federal-provincial basis.

The amount of per head payment still needs to be finalized, but officials said with full participation from the federal government, it would be $200 per head.

The province said it plans to issue an initial payment of $100 per breeding female, with the remainder being made available when the agreement is finalized and after confirmation the breeding herd is retained.

Officials said the program will be available to producers of other ruminant animals.

The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) will deliver the AgriRecovery program. Application details are being released in the coming days.

Marit is also urging farmers to divert low-yielding crops to feed use.

“I encourage crop producers to consider how these changes could work for your operation or enable you to help a neighbour,” he said.

“Across the province there is a need for feed and straw this winter and, if you have feed, many websites and social media groups can connect you with livestock producers who are in need.”

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Click to play video: 'Drought impacting the cattle industry in Sask.' Drought impacting the cattle industry in Sask.
Drought impacting the cattle industry in Sask – Aug 2, 2021

Additional relief measures

Other relief measures for producers have previously been announced.

The SCIC said it is doubling the low yield appraisal threshold values for its customers who salvage their cereal or pulse crops as feed, without negatively impacting future individual coverage.

SCIC said customers should contact their local office first to discuss options before they graze, bale or silage any damaged crops.

Read more: AgriStability interim benefit increase announced for Sask. producers

The Saskatchewan government said it is providing relief to livestock producers by temporarily increasing the maximum funding from the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure program from $50,000 to $150,000.

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The program is for dugouts, wells and pipelines for agriculture use, with the first $50,000 based on a 50-50 cost-share and the remaining $100,000 on a 70-30 government-producer cost-share.

More information on the program is available by contacting the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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