A tough year of farming resulted an $853 million hit to in the provincial budget, but Saskatchewan farmers are saying the onus isn’t only on grain producers.
“Part of that payout is in there strictly for the livestock producers that had a shortage of feed and so it’s not totally on the grain side that those numbers are attributed to, it’s for the livestock sector as well,” said Ian Boxall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).
The Saskatchewan government is forecasting a $250-million deficit this fiscal year due to higher expenses related to the summer drought.
The mid-year financial report says the deficit puts Saskatchewan down $1.3 billion from budget, as the province had initially forecast a surplus of more than $1 billion.
“We had areas that had a sustained drought again continuing,” Boxall said. “Some areas even into the third and fourth year of this extended drought so I think there was a wide mix across the province anywhere from really good crops to really poor.”
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the unforeseen drought reduced crop production by 20 per cent.
“The drought was unforeseen, reducing projected crop production by 20 per cent in 2023, when compared to 2022,” Harpauer said, as she released the 2023-24 Mid-Year Report. “Crop insurance and relief programs are in place for Saskatchewan producers.”
Boxall said that moving forward, although there are great programs in place for grain producers, more services could be set aside for livestock producers.
“We need to do some work on the livestock side so that we aren’t having these AgriRecovery settlements that aren’t budgeting for so that we get a little bit better, sweeter programs to protect the livestock producer when they have issues that come up whether it be drought or disease to ensure that they have the coverage that they require.”
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According to the Water Security Agency (WSA) freeze-up report, if the province doesn’t see extreme amounts of snowfall this winter, the drought will continue into spring and summer 2024.
“There is, however, concern of surface water supply issues in the southwest if winter snowfall is below average,” read a release from the WSA. “In some cases, an above normal snowpack would be required to stave off extremely dry conditions.”
There are currently no areas of the province that are predicted to have above normal spring runoff levels in 2024.
University of Saskatchewan Researcher Terry Fonstad said the Global Institue for Water Security is trying to help the agriculture sector by predicting spring runoff levels.
“We’re able then to give at least some warning or some forecasting on what that water might be, which will help with the irrigation initiative,” Fonstad said.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on here for adaptation and resiliency to those changes in water as they come along.”
– With files from the Canadian Press
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