Sask. anticipates spending less on business risk programs

The Saskatchewan budget scheduled for March 18 turned out to be a non-event as the Legislature shut down amid COVID-19 concerns.

Earlier that day the government announced a spending plan of $14.15 billion, but couldn’t say how much the virus will cost the health system or how much revenue the province could expect to take in.

Finance minister Donna Harpauer said the province has access to $1.3 billion in cash if needed.

Premier Scott Moe said the government would provide the funding needed to fight the pandemic. Cabinet will require special warrants to get money out the door.

Of the total, the agriculture ministry will see spending drop by $22 million or almost six percent to nearly $369 million.

The major decrease comes in business risk management spending, which is always based on federal forecasts.

The estimates project $15.8 million less spending for AgriStability and $15.9 million less on crop insurance premiums.

Agriculture minister David Marit said the federal forecasts were done in December.

“It is important to note that business risk management spending is government by federal-provincial agreements and the amount that we spend in any one year is impacted by commodity prices and program participation,” he said through an emailed statement.

“We recognize that the markets are very volatile and those spending forecasts will be adjusted through the year.”

One area that the will see some additional spending is irrigation development.

Marit said $5 million will be used to conduct additional analysis of the potential, including a study of the Westside Irrigation and Qu’Appelle South Irrigation projects.

Part of that work will include land identification and soil suitability assessments.

“It is too early to indicate the costs required to build irrigation infrastructure,” he said.

Marit added that investment from the federal government and the private sector would be required to develop the infrastructure.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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