Ag priorities set for Sask. election

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan has released its election priorities for the provincial election.

President Todd Lewis said the organization has asked all of the registered political parties for their positions on a number of topics, including infrastructure, improved business risk management programs, environmental issues and opportunities.

He said BRM programming is top of mind for producers, considering that the current suite has been under review for years.

“There’s going to be a meeting in November after (the election) so that Saskatchewan can attend,” he said, referring to the federal-provincial-territorial ministers’ annual meeting.

At that time, he said, the Saskatchewan representative must put forward ways to improve the program in which fewer than 50 percent of producers participate.

APAS has proposed that AgriStability be improved for the remainder of the current agreement, which expires in 2023. The organization wants flexible enrolment, enhanced coverage levels and elimination of the reference margin limit.

Lewis said there is time for governments to design and implement a better program for 2023.

Crop insurance should be modernized through changes to yield coverage calculations and premium-setting methodology, and the federal government should permanently cost-share premiums for the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program.

Lewis said another large issue is the availability of cellular and internet service in rural areas, as well as natural gas and three-phase power.

After last fall’s wet harvest there was a demand for natural gas for grain dryers, he said, and producers need three-phase power in their bin yards.

COVID-19 has underscored the challenges in rural areas for digital services. But Lewis said better traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, is also required to get goods to market.

APAS called for stronger landowner protection through a review of the province’s surface rights legislation. That law was reviewed and up for change several years ago, but pulled from the government’s order paper.

Lewis said there must be well clean-up and reclamation programs that ensure responsible development.

The downturn in the energy sector has created more risk for landowners who are seeing defaults on lease payments and are concerned about orphan wells on their property, he said.

“They’re taking pretty valuable agricultural land and making it less farmable,” Lewis said of some energy companies.

Other topics APAS raised include better flood and drought mitigation, and a carbon credit/offset framework.

Government should apply “a beginning farmer lens” to policy decisions, especially when it comes to BRM, it said. And, there should be tax incentives to help new farmers access land.

Lewis said COVID-19 has shown how important the agriculture sector is to the economy. Exports have continued to be strong even as other parts of the economy stagnated.

The organization hopes to see its recommendations included in party platforms.

APAS, along with the Saskatchewan Farm Stewardship Association, is planning to host an election forum. It will be broadcast on AccessNow TV and RealAgriculture during the week of Oct. 19-25.

Lewis said parties will send in video and audio for use during the forum and a producer panel will also participate.

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