Saskatchewan farmers hoping for wet winter after drought-ravaged summer

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Saskatchewan farmers hoping for wet winter after drought-ravaged summer
One Saskatchewan farmer said he relied on reserve moisture to the point where he fears next year's growing conditions could be even worse – Nov 9, 2021

Saskatchewan’s first blast of winter will also be the first substantial precipitation many farmers have seen in a long time.

Corey Loessin can see the impact of the prolonged drought on his property south of Radisson. A dugout normally used for watering the yard barely has a foot of water in it.

“It was a pretty dry season. We got about four inches in total here (at the farm),” he said.

Some precipitation is on the way in the form of snow. Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings and special weather statements spanning parts of central and southern Saskatchewan.

Loessin’s farm could see freezing rain and as much as 10 centimetres of snow by Thursday morning.

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“Snow through the winter is going to be a good thing. If we get some, that will help,” he said. “I think it’s dry enough that the ground won’t freeze and the snow will possibly soak in.”

This year, the area west of Saskatoon received about one-fifth of the precipitation it normally gets, said Loessin, who is also a member of the board of directors for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

With the dry conditions, Loessin said he produced yields that were about one-third of his 10-year average.

Ian Boxall, a Tisdale-area farmer, brought in about half the bushels he normally does.

“I think it would be fair to say the majority of the province had half a crop or less,” said Boxall, vice-president of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan.

Both producers have relied on reserve moisture in recent growing seasons, using up what limited moisture they had.

“This year, we started to feel the fact that our reserves were down,” Boxall said. “My fear is that next year is going to be even worse.”

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While some farmers have found financial support through the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation, cattle producers have required more government support.

In August, the Saskatchewan government announced $119 million in aid for cattle producers under the AgriRecovery program. As of Monday, the 2021 Canada-Saskatchewan Drought Response Initiative has received nearly 8,700 applications, accounting for about 1.24 million animals.

The initiative pays $200 per head of cattle for affected producers.

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