Sask. budget boosts ag processing

Saskatchewan has unveiled a new tax incentive to attract more agricultural processing.

The Saskatchewan Value-Added Agriculture Incentive will provide a 15 percent non-refundable tax credit for capital investments of more than $10 million.

Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison said the government has worked closely with industry to develop the program.

“We think that there’s a real opportunity to attract additional value-added agricultural investment into the province,” he said.

“I mean, it makes sense on how many different levels.”

Harrison said the $10 million minimum was established with the thought that the province could attract large-scale processing that might not have considered locating there.

“It’s not that the taxpayer will be out of pocket for any additional money; these are investments that wouldn’t have taken place otherwise but for this program being in place,” he said.

Potential capital projects include things like pea processing plants. Harrison said he didn’t know of any particular projects in the works right now but the government will make sure that industry knows about the incentive program.

Companies will be eligible for 20 percent of the benefit in the first year after a facility begins operating, 30 percent in the second year and 50 percent in year three.

The incentive was announced during the April 10 budget speech from Finance Minister Donna Harpauer.

The agriculture ministry plans to spend nearly $379 million, or $10 million less than last year’s estimate.

“Nobody really asked for much new,” said Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart. “I think they were hoping to hold the line. We were asked not to cut research funding. Other than that everybody was kind of hoping the programs would still be in place.”

Research spending will be up about $5 million and program spending is up $3.4 million.

Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan will get a three-year budget boost from $610,000 per year to $800,000 to carry out animal welfare investigations.

The increases are offset by a $6 million decrease in business risk management spending, based on federal estimates of fewer claims, and a cut to the land management budget reflecting the end of the 2015 crown land sale program incentives.

Other spending typically reflected in agriculture estimates has been shifted into the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership. For example, industry assistance shows a reduction of $2.875 million, but that’s because the Prairie Diagnostic Services operating grant has been moved to the disease surveillance program under CAP.

The budget confirmed an expenditure of about $5 million to hire more police officers.

Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, said safe rural communities are key.

“We know that we need more officers on the ground,” he said.

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