Producers call drought aid small first steps

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says this is one of the most severe widespread droughts and largest feed supply shortages in decades, and it will continue to work for more supports. | MICKEY WATKINS photo

Livestock tax deferral and AgriRecovery commitment appreciated, but farmers say Prairies must move on AgriStability

Farm organizations largely welcomed last week’s federal drought assistance announcement but say more is required to keep producers and the food supply chain working.

The early designation of livestock tax deferral regions and late participation in AgriStability are only small first steps, they said.

They are now pinning their hopes on the AgriRecovery assessments currently underway in the four western provinces and parts of Ontario and the decisions on how that disaster funding will roll out.

Federal minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said governments are gathering information on extraordinary costs producers are facing as quickly as possible and support could include direct payments for feed, transportation and water infrastructure.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Mary Robinson welcomed the news.

“CFA is glad to see this kind of support offered, recognizing further steps are required to deliver a comprehensive AgriRecovery response and ensure these measures are appropriately targeted.”

She stressed the need for programs that offer a strong base of support so that ad hoc responses during crisis are limited.

CFA also said the AgriRecovery assessments must be done quickly and in consultation with producers.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said the early designation of tax deferral eligibility is welcome but Ottawa didn’t designate all the drought-affected areas, didn’t make the deferral multi-year and didn’t make all classes of cattle eligible. Those were key requests from the CCA.

Vice-president Reg Schellenberg said this is one of the most severe widespread droughts and largest feed supply shortages in decades and the organization will continue to work for more supports.

During a town hall meeting of cattle organizations last week, participants heard that producers in Atlantic Canada are already working on how they can move surplus feed from the East.

CCA president Bob Lowe said it’s critical to maintain the Canadian cattle herd, whatever it takes to do that.

Grain Growers of Canada pointed to the late enrolment provision for AgriStability as a positive step.

“Right now AgriStability is the only program that can offer some meaningful support to Canada’s grain farmers, many of whom are facing a devasting impact from this year’s drought,” said chair Andre Harpe.

AgriStability participants can apply for interim payments as well.

Harpe called on governments on the Prairies to put politics aside and increase the compensation rate for the program to 80 percent. He said investing in agriculture is worth it.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan also repeated its call for increased compensation under AgriStability, as did CFA.

APAS said the other announced measures don’t do enough to secure recovery both on the farm and through the supply chain.

Vice-president Ian Boxall, who operates a grain farm at Tisdale in northeastern Saskatchewan, said livestock producers are worse off right now. Grain farmers have some options under crop insurance, as long as they purchased it.

“If they’ve chosen not to take it that’s their choice,” he said.

Some provinces have adjusted their crop insurance programs to help make drought-affected crops available for feed. Feed costs are climbing and expected to soar.

Boxall said crop insurance or some other agency should co-ordinate the process of matching feed buyers and sellers, considering the size of the problem. The Saskatchewan agriculture ministry used to offer a feed and forage listing service but no longer does.

And he said for all the flaws in AgriStability, he had heard of one producer who applied for an interim payment and received it quickly.

Boxall said his area has had only 50 millimetres of rain since seeding.

“We have a third of a crop, maybe,” he said.

For more content related to drought management visit The Dry Times, where you can find a collection of stories from our family of publications as well as links to external resources to support your decisions through these difficult times.

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