The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association is well-known for its commitment to conserving grassland habitat for species at risk. Now it’s assisting people at risk with a Beef Drive that raised donations of animals yielding approximately 8,525 pounds of ground beef for delivery to Saskatchewan food banks since last fall, at a retail value of more than $48,000.
Elanco Canada has joined in by selecting the Beef Drive to receive $10,000 from the company’s 100 Communities Initiative that supports local projects worldwide helping to break the cycle of hunger in their communities. The gift will help defray the cost of processing donated animals, allowing Saskatchewan beef producers to donate more animals.
SSGA general manager Chad MacPherson says the food banks require meat from a provincially inspected packing plant. He can help arrange for processing and transport of the ground beef from the plant to the Regina food bank, which looks after distributing it to food banks across the province. Producers can also make their donations in person to their local food banks. Either way, the food bank will issue tax-deductible receipts to producers for their donations of beef or cash to help with processing costs.
The SSGA opened 2016 with news that it would receive $2.58 million over five years from Environment Canada’s Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands program to develop and deliver voluntary conservation programs designed to fit the needs of participating producers to provide wildlife habitat. Working with the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program since then has led to 14 contracts covering more than 56,000 acres and seven habitat-management agreements covering more than 75,000 acres in southwestern Saskatchewan.
Several habitat restoration projects and grass-banking projects are being finalized in conjunction with a branded beef project where producers would be able to market conservation-friendly beef.
Receipts from the Evening with Temple Grandin co-sponsored with the Autism Resource Centre helped push SSGA revenues to a 104-year high of more than $1 million in a single year. Finance chair Jeff Yorga says this is significant in view of the association’s financial viability being in question just 10 years ago.
During the past fiscal year president Shane Jahnke says the association was involved in consultations on the next agricultural policy framework, a livestock strategy for Saskatchewan, the provincial Lands Act and the closure of the Saskatchewan Pasture Program.
This year he says SSGA will be asking the province to ensure patrons of the 51 provincial pastures have the first opportunity to lease or purchase the pastures and that the transfer of the former federal community pastures continue as called for in the existing agreement.
SSGA are concerned by efforts to turn the remaining pastures in southwestern Saskatchewan into a national park or national wildlife area, given the fact that grazing is critical to maintaining healthy grassland habitats and national parks and wildlife areas do not allow for any long-term grazing agreements.
If the pastures are converted to parks, the SSGA will be working to gain continued access to grazing for the patrons.
SSGA will also be expressing its concern with environmental conservation groups using government funds to purchase agricultural lands in competition with producers.
There are plenty of other hot-button items to deal with in 2017-18 but Jahnke says one area where great progress has been made is with the Ministry of Environment on predation The introduction of additional trapping seasons for cougars and black bears in select zones starting this fall is a positive step in managing the larger populations in the southern regions of the province.