Set-aside program open

The AgriRecovery set-aside program is up and running to help producers who hold cattle back from slaughter after COVID-19 affected packing plant employees.

Enrolment began June 29 and proceeds weekly.

Successful applicants can get up to $2 per head per week to offset the extraordinary costs of keeping cattle on maintenance rations before they are able to go to packers.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp. is administering the program in that province for both cattle and bison.

Program lead Jodie Griffin said applications are accepted Mondays and Tuesdays during business hours.

On Thursdays, the administration and industry advisory group decide what is going to be set aside for that week.

“We’ll notify all our producers whether their applications have been accepted or denied on Fridays,” Griffin said. “Then the set-aside program officially begins for that said producer on the subsequent Monday.”

Just a couple weeks into the program, she said there have been many inquiries about how the program works and the criteria to be eligible.

The slaughter-ready animals must be Canadian-owned and fed by an eligible producer for a minimum of 60 days, and fed in Saskatchewan before they can be offered to the program.

Steers and heifers must meet Grade A requirements or better, as well as minimum weight standards.

For cattle, steers must average a minimum 1,400 pounds, while heifers must weigh 1,300 lb.

For bison, bulls have to weigh 1,250 lb. and heifers, 1,150 lb.

All must have Canadian Cattle Identification Agency-approved RFID ear tags.

SCIC chief executive officer Shawn Jaques said producers can enroll through forms on the corporation’s website.

Griffin said producers who want to apply are encouraged to phone SCIC and talk to someone working specifically on the set-aside.

“Because this is a week-by-week program that conversation will be ongoing as our producers are needing to place cattle aside,” she said.

While feedlot owners will generally be the largest users of the set-aside, there are producers who retain ownership and they are also eligible.

There is no program cap as to how much a single producer can receive.

Ottawa announced the AgriRecovery program in early May and both Alberta and Saskatchewan later announced they would contribute their 40-percent share.

Alberta announced it would allocate $17 million for a total of $42 million available. Saskatchewan committed $5 million for a $12.5-million total.

Manitoba has said it will participate but has not made the amount public. According to Manitoba Beef Producers’ July publication the province would likely have to budget between $2.5 and $3 million, while Ottawa contributes $8 million.

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