Prairie Post (East Edition)

Farm disaster program renewal must support livestock producers

- By Ian Boxell, Opinion

Saskatchew­an’s agricultur­al producers have been through a tough couple of years, especially our livestock producers.

Extreme drought across Western Canada in 2021 created widespread shortages of livestock feed and water, and left pastures and hay land in poor condition for the upcoming year.

In 2021, provincial and federal government­s stepped up with AgriRecove­ry support to help producers deal with the increased costs of maintainin­g their herds, and that aid was very much appreciate­d. It was also designed as a one-time program that is now winding down.

Producers also appreciate the changes to remove the Reference Margin Limit in AgriStabil­ity, which has improved that program.

Significan­t challenges remain for this year however, and we are unsure about whether there is adequate programmin­g to support the livestock sector.

2022 is shaping up as another difficult year for cattle producers. Many farms in the southeast lost new calves in the blizzards that swept through the area over the past few weeks. Calf mortality rates are reportedly up to 15% for some operations. These losses are not covered under current Business Risk Management (BRM) programmin­g.

Producers appreciate the announceme­nt of the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) in areas affected by spring storms. But compensati­on only covers the value of the calf at the time of loss, and not the sale value of the animal at market weight.

At the same time, extreme drought persists in some western parts of Saskatchew­an. There’s no feed available and farms are preparing to pasture their animals on land that has little prospect of new growth without significan­t moisture.

Government­s have not given themselves the toolkit they need to deal with emergency situations. We clearly need improvemen­ts to BRM programs to better support producers during and after natural disasters.

Federal and provincial government­s are currently negotiatin­g the next five-year agreement for agricultur­al policy. These consultati­ons must recognize the significan­t challenges facing Saskatchew­an livestock producers and develop better programs to support the industry in times of disaster.

It is also time to ensure that livestock and mixed producers can take advantage of production insurance tools like those that are available for crop producers.

Earlier this month, the APAS Next Policy Framework (NPF) Task Force released their recommenda­tions for the 2023 agricultur­al programs. The report addresses the need for cost-shared insurance, disaster assistance programs that are on par with other countries, and environmen­tal initiative­s that support the developmen­t of water supplies on a much larger and more ambitious scale than what is currently available.

Canada produces the highest quality and most sustainabl­y produced livestock in the world. The challenges facing cattle producers today threaten the long-term viability of the industry. Government programs can and should help producers better manage these risks.

We hope the government’s current negotiatio­ns will recognize the livestock industry’s contributi­ons to Canadian agricultur­e by creating programs for 2023 that will better support the needs of our industry for the future.

Ian Boxall is the President of Agricultur­al Producers associatio­n of Saskatchew­an

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