Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) is calling on the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to expand drought assistance measures that will further safeguard producers into the next growing season.
“When producers invest in water infrastructure, their operations become more resilient because they can adapt more efficiently to dry conditions,” says Kelcy Elford, SSGA president. “We greatly appreciate the support we are receiving from government. In fact, the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP) is helping so many producers develop their water resources that we are now facing a contractor shortage for services ranging from feasibility studies, planning and design to project management, construction and operational optimization.”
“Once the ground freezes, new and existing water development projects are put on hold until after the thaw, which is why FRWIP’s 70 per cent funding should be extended beyond March 31, 2022. There’s a project line-up that grows by the day,” says Chad MacPherson, general manager of SSGA. “Due to feed shortages, producers are making the decision to sell more animals and not just breeding females. In some cases, they are selling the equivalent of two calf crops in the same year, which means they are paying double the amount of income tax in one year while liquidating a large portion of their herd.”
SSGA’s board of directors, management and membership agree that the crisis can be better managed with industry-government efforts that address the current disaster, while providing opportunities for recovery in 12 actions, under both the FRWIP and Financial Management and Cash Flow programs.
Under the FRWIP program, the SSGA is requesting:
- A decrease of eligibility requirement for revenue to $10,000;
- Fund offsite watering systems without dugout expansion or riparian protection;
- Include power installation for wells, water pumping and water hauling as eligible expenses; and
- Provide additional technical support for planning and construction of water projects.
- Expedite regulatory approval process for water projects; and
- Disburse the government’s portion to contractors directly through interim payments to protect each ag operation’s cash flow balance.
Under the Financial management and Cash Flow program, the SSGA is requesting:
- Allow producers to make AgriInvest withdrawals tax-free;
- Offer long-term, low interest loans to cover drought-related expenses and to help rebuild;
- Extend payments on Farm Credit Canada (FCC) COVID loans, Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and Advanced Payments Program loan and cash advances;
- Update the Livestock Tax Deferral Program to include all classes of cattle;
- Provide assistance with freight by negotiating affordable transportation with provincial and federal railway companies for importing feed grains into deficit areas of the province; and
- Brainstorm with financial institutions to find new and relevant ways to support agriculture producers during these difficult times.
“We have tremendous gratitude for the timely support provided to livestock producers through the Canada-Saskatchewan Drought Response Initiative,” Elford says. “Agriculture is vital to Canada’s food security and it’s the lifeblood of our province. Farmers and ranchers are essential to our economy. Though we cannot control the water yield, we can advocate for producers and we can work with our highly-responsive Ministry to ensure producers have what they need to overcome the devastating effects of this severe drought.”