Drought support for Saskatchewan livestock producers on the way

August 28, 2023, 10:54 am
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Saskatchewan’s funding will provide eligible producers with up to $80 per head to maintain breeding stock for beef cattle, bison, horse, elk, deer, sheep and goats.

On Aug. 21, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the province’s support in providing up to $70 million available to livestock producers to help support the costs of feeding livestock, to maintain the breeding herd in Saskatchewan.

With producers being impacted by the drought this summer, Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), said financial support from the provincial government will help farmers substantially.

“The money is being directed at the producers that need the most help,” said Orb.

“I think it’s going to be adequate help. We’re kind of looking for the federal government’s reaction, we haven’t seen anything yet.”

The Government of Saskatchewan’s funding will provide eligible producers with up to $80 per head to maintain breeding stock for beef cattle, bison, horse, elk, deer, sheep and goats.

The program will be administered by Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC).

With the provincial government responding to livestock producer’s needs in an urgent matter, Orb said SARM is hoping the federal government will provide financial assistance as well.

“Livestock producers are wondering if they’re going to get some help from the federal government on top of what the province is doing,” said Orb.

“I think it’s good what the province is doing and I think it’s because they realize it’s really important, that something needs to be done now.

“If you look at the $80 the province is putting up, that’s very similar to what they would’ve had to put up in 2021. So 40 per cent of their $200 per head that was given to livestock producers in that year, that comes to $80 from the 40 per cent, and the 60 per cent would be the $120 from the federal government. That’s where they got their $200 in 2021.

“I think that’s why the province is doing this, they’re leading by example and putting that out there, hoping to convince the feds to throw in their share.”

Orb explained how the drought across Saskatchewan has impacted livestock producers.

“There have been some producers that have sold some of their breeding herd already,” Orb said.

“I’ve talked to some producers in the Caron area when I was down there for a meeting, one farmer told me he sold half of his cattle herd already. He said if he didn’t get any rain this fall he would be looking at selling the rest, and he may not get back into cattle.

“It also goes to other people who have goats, sheep and things like that, if they’re getting to the age where if they’re getting out of something they’re probably not going to get back into it.

“I think that’s something the province is concerned about, is too many producers selling their breeding herds and getting out of the business because that’s a big part of Saskatchewan agriculture.

“We want to promote this, especially to young people, but if you see too many of the more experienced people getting out I think it’s going to deter younger people from getting in, and that’s not a good signal for the industry.”

Other supports by the provincial government have been implemented to help mitigate the situation, including the Government of Saskatchewan and Canada’s agreement to increase the 2023 AgriStability interim benefit payment percentage from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, so producers can access a larger portion of their final AgriStability benefit early.

SARM plans visit to Ottawa in Oct.
In October, representatives from SARM will be going to Ottawa to meet Canada’s Agriculture Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, to discuss the association’s priorities.

“We usually go to Ottawa in October, it’s sort of our lobby the hill days,” said Orb.

“We’ll hopefully be getting a meeting with Minister MacAulay. We sent invitations to his office to see if we can get a meeting with him. If we haven’t heard anything about help in Saskatchewan by then, I guess we’re going to refortify what the province has been asking for when we get there, but we certainly hope that’s not the case and that we can thank the minister of agriculture for their contributions to Saskatchewan agriculture.

“We’ll also be talking to Minister MacAulay about, there seems to be fairly constant strikes at the Port of Vancouver. We’ve asked the transport minister before if the federal government would consider making grain transportation an essential service so that workers would not be able to go on strike, or at least they would have to have someone working there, to keep that port open because Saskatchewan producers lose a lot of money every day when the ships aren’t coming in.

“Generally, I think it will be a discussion we have to have with the minister as well about some of the programs that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has, with the laws of strychnine. With SARM’s registration to control Richardson’s ground squirrel, we lost that and so we’ll be talking to the minister about that again.”