Saskatchewan commits over $100 million in drought support to livestock producers

Black Angus Cow with Calf

With drought burning off pastures, drying water sources and raising feed costs, Saskatchewan’s provincial government pledged $119 million in drought relief to livestock producers.

“We are acting swiftly to support Saskatchewan producers in retaining their breeding herd,” said David Marit, Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister.

The funds, directed through the federal-provincial AgriRecovery program, would be available on a per-head basis to cattle, sheep and bison producers in the province. If the federal government kicks in its 60 per cent share of the funding, the total would be $297 million, which breaks down to $200 per head.

Alberta also proposed a $200 per head payment to its producers under AgriRecovery last week, and Manitoba pledged $62 million. So far, Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal agriculture minister, seems supportive of the provincial requests, tweeting that she applauds “the substantial investments made by provinces to support farmers impacted by #Drought2021 and climate change,” and adding they are ready to “seek further funding” in addition to the $100 million pledged last week.

Kelcy Elford, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers’ Association, described the situation as dire for livestock producers. If ranchers are forced to sell cattle, Saskatchewan could be looking at its smallest cow herd since the 1980s, Elford noted in a press release. That could have knock-on effects such as threatening the country’s processing sector.

Arnold Balicki, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA) chair, said the AgriRecovery announcement would complement existing programs but acknowledged it wouldn’t address all the costs faced by producers.

“This year the dry area is so widespread and so severe that costs and challenges are beyond usual and what existing programs can address. That’s why we requested a per head payment and I am glad to see the response,” said Balicki in a release.

While the current drought has highlighted that existing safety nets aren’t adequate for livestock producers, Elford said the province’s funding would help, and urged the federal government to commit its 60 per cent share soon.

“The drought in Saskatchewan puts us at a disadvantage when we compete for feed against other buyers from outside the province,” Elford said. “Today’s announcement will help level the playing field.”

Balicki also sees the announcement as evening the odds for Saskatchewan producers competing for feed and also offering flexibility.

“My heart goes out to all producers working through this awful year. I have spoken to many and the hurt is widespread. SCA will continue working on every Saskatchewan cattle producer’s behalf to promote and develop the industry and to advocate for solutions to challenges as they arise.”

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