Too much rain a 'disaster' for some Sask. farmers
The Saskatchewan rural municipalities of Connaught and Tisdale have passed resolutions declaring themselves "agricultural disaster areas" because of excessively wet soil conditions that have impeded seeding of crops.
The communities are about 200 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.
According to local officials, only 45 per cent of the expected crop in the area has been seeded, which is far less than the amount farmers hoped would be seeded by this time of year.
Timing is critical in agriculture as crops must develop enough to be harvested before damaging frosts in the fall.
As seeding is delayed, farmers are left with fewer options for what to plant and face a greater risk of late-developing crops.
A declaration of an agricultural disaster does not trigger any formal actions by government. However, it does signal the gravity of the situation in the eyes of local authorities.
According to the provincial government, about 70 per cent of Saskatchewan's 44,000 farmers have completed their seeding work for 2010. That is well short of the five-year average of 96 per cent by this time of year.
The Agriculture Ministry said that western regions of the province made the most progress on seeding during the past week.
Officials noted that soil conditions are wet across the province because of an unusually rainy spring.
Bob Bjornerud, Saskatchewan's minister of agriculture, has been touring areas hit with excessive rain.
"This spring has been frustrating for many farmers who are trying to get their crops seeded," Bjornerud said in a news release Thursday. "Seeing the wet conditions first-hand gives me a better grasp of the challenges producers in these areas are facing."
The opposition NDP issued a news release Thursday calling for special compensation to help farmers affected by the heavy rains.
NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter, citing media reports that suggested as much as five million acres of farmland might be left unseeded, said affected farmers should receive a payment of $100 per acre.
"This is a financial disaster for farm families," said Lingenfelter, who is the opposition agriculture critic, in the news release.
"If the Harper Conservative government in Ottawa can find over a billion dollars to waste on security for an international summit, it can get to work with the provincial government in Regina to develop a plan to help our rural communities in crisis."
According to recent statistics, Saskatchewan has about 64 million acres of farmland, and, depending on the farm, roughly 36 million acres are used for crops. The rest of the farmland might be in summer fallow or used as pasture.