Beef producers call for drought and wildfire relief

Farmers and ranchers across Canada are dealing with drought.

With provincial, territorial and federal ag ministers meeting this afternoon to discuss the drought gripping Western Canada and Ontario, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and its provincial counterparts are requesting "urgent government action on drought and wildfire relief measures."

“Without timely and targeted assistance from federal and provincial governments, beef producers will be forced to make difficult management decisions including culling of their herds. It is of critical importance that Canada’s beef cow herd be maintained throughout this disaster event,” said Bob Lowe, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president, in a release.

Beef associations are calling for immediate measures, including:
• Expedite approvals for insured crops to be designated for livestock feed or grazing purposes. Provide preferential treatment or incentives to allow crops to be grazed or converted to feed without penalty.
• Dedicate additional resources to support quality water access and infrastructure.
• Initiate drought relief programming under AgriRecovery to assist with extraordinary costs related to feed and water shortages and impacts of wildfires to maintain the national cattle herd.
• Immediately implement the Livestock Tax Deferral provision for Ontario, all the Prairie provinces and B.C. Extend eligibility to include all classes of cattle.
• Declare B.C. wildfires eligible for the Disaster Financial Assistance program

Agriculture Canada's Drought Outlook for late June shows dry conditions across Canada, with some areas in Western Canada rated as "extreme" or "exceptional" (the worst category) for drought. Many farmers and ranchers are unlikely to see any relief from the weather in the short term. Daniel Bezte, writing for the Manitoba Co-operator, sees a continuation of the current pattern for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As the current ridge pushes off to the east, it's possible low pressure could bring showers next week. But any potential precipitation will come too late for many forage crops, leaving producers scrambling to find pasture for the rest of the grazing season and feed for the cow herd this winter.

B.C. has not only been dealing with minimal moisture and extremely high temperatatures, but also wildfires.

"We are faced with a very bleak outlook for the industry and the province. While we have not yet been declared a State of Emergency, we are in the middle of one of the largest disasters we have ever faced. The need to have financial assistance for this disaster is crucial for us to rebuild and survive this event," said Kevin Boon, BC Cattlemen’s Association general manager.

Alberta Beef Producers appreciate the government's "acknowledgment of the urgency of the drought situation," said Dr. Melanie Wowk, Alberta Beef Producers chair. "Our top priority is attempting to maintain the mother cow herd by converting failed crops to suitable feed while that opportunity still exists."

Arnold Balicki, Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association chair, characterized the province's drought situation as "anywhere from critical to extremely dire."

"With the expected heat dome coming showing temperatures in the high 30s and no rain in sight, we know the situation will only worsen over the coming weeks. The Saskatchewan government recently announced measures through SCIC and FRWIP, which are a good first step. Additional measures are still needed to get our cattle producers through not only this year, but the next,” Balicki said.

“Manitoba’s beef sector has been taxed by successive years of dry conditions and droughts which have depleted feed and water resources. The conditions are continuing to deteriorate each day, forcing producers to evaluate their options, such as downsizing or exiting,” said Manitoba Beef Producers president Tyler Fulton. “MBP is also working with the CCA and government officials to identify both near and longer-term strategies to help address this situation. The more swiftly initiatives can be implemented, the better.”

In Ontario, producers are concerned about short- and potential long-term drought effects on the Ontario cow herd, as well as the broader Canadian cattle sector, said Rob Lipsett, Beef Farmers of Ontario president.

“Pastures in several regions of Ontario have been decimated by the persistent heat and lack of timely rains. The increased cost of feed as well as the costs associated with re‐establishing hayfields and pasture next year will add to the hardship for those in affected regions. The scope and severity of the drought in parts of Ontario and across Western Canada will have significant consequences for our sector in the absence of government assistance.”

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