Federal and provincial officials still working on rollout of AgriRecovery program for drought-stricken livestock producers

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Details on anticipated AgriRecovery programs to assist drought-stricken livestock producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan could be coming soon — possibly in the next week, according to Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister.

Federal officials signalled back in August that they had agreed to move ahead on offering AgriRecovery disaster relief programs together with the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments. At the time, RealAgriculture was told their goal was to launch the drought aid in mid-September.

The Saskatchewan government went as far as announcing its contribution to a potential AgriRecovery program in August, committing up to $70 million to help offset the costs of feeding breeding livestock in the province by up to $80 per head. Assuming the 60:40 fed-prov funding ratio for AgriRecovery, the matching federal portion could be worth another $175 million, or $200 per head, in Saskatchewan.

Given the dollar amounts involved, the federal funding must be approved by the finance department and the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO had not given its approval, as of Oct. 3, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit, speaking with RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney.

“My understanding is it has gone through Minister MacAulay’s office. It has gone through Finance. My understanding is it is sitting at the Prime Minister’s Office. So we’re really hopeful that the Prime Minister will see the urgency of this,” says Marit, in the interview below.

“We really urge them to have a serious look at this and approve it — I’m hopeful by the end of the week,” he says.

As of October 2, federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s staff “remain in close contact with the provinces, both through our officials and at the political level, and hope to have more to share soon,” a spokesperson for the federal minister said in an emailed statement.

Whether or not it’s contributed to the delay is not clear, but there has been a change in federal agriculture minister and ministerial staff since the governments agreed to move ahead on AgriRecovery back in August, with Lawrence MacAulay replacing former ag minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in the Aug. 26 cabinet shuffle.

Jeff Yorga, first vice president with the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, told RealAgriculture last week he is concerned the list of allowable expenses covered by the AgriRecovery program will not include some of the things producers have had to do to get through this year.

“My initial concern right now is given the delay in the program, and given some of the parameters around it, that this isn’t going to get to the people that actually need it,” he said.

In 2021, the federal government also worked with the provincial governments in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario to offer AgriRecovery drought support. The 2021 program saw livestock producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan receive benefits worth up to $200 per head for breeding stock.

RealAgriculture is also seeking comment/interviews from the Alberta government, including Ag Minister RJ Sigurdson.

Editor’s note: This story was updated late Oct. 3 to include comments and the interview with Saskatchewan Ag Minister David Marit.

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